The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor 21, 1976 “A Lurker Stalks the Swamp”

Sometimes you just have to take a look at something off the beaten path. Even if it’s in an ancillary way, like in this case. Anyone that’s a fan of this blog knows how I feel about swamp monsters. I prefer the Marvel version but also like the DC counterpart. One other version is The Lurker of the Swamp! In his Gold Key issue of Dr. Spektor, we see not only a crazy swamp monster, but a meteorite that can hypnotize people, and of course a fight between said monster and an alligator. Few know this comic book fact, but every time a swamp monster crosses paths with an alligator, they must fight.

In 1976, Swamp Thing and Man-Thing were both already a big deal. So, it was a no-brainer for other companies to try to create a knock-off. The visuals of this beast are certainly different enough than the other two, and Jesse Santos (art, interiors and cover) is the reason why. A cross between the two more popular creatures, this one has a little bit of a difference not only stylistically, but also in the way it behaves as well. The other characters in this story seem kind of bland, but there definitely enough action and intrigue thanks to Don Glut (writer). Definitely grab this book if you see at a decent cost, even if for nothing more than the awesome cover!

 

Justice League of America 154, 1978 “I’ll Kill You in Your Dreams!”

My first encounter with the JLA, was in the form of television and the Superfriends. The stories weren’t anything heavy, but they were fun to watch and kept me entertained. I didn’t buy my first JLA comic though until just a few years ago. This wasn’t the first issue I bought, but it’s a good one! A story is only as good as its villain (just my two cents). Back to animation for a minute…The Justice League television show from the early 2000s was  a fantastic show, and the episode with Doctor Destiny was incredible (they haven’t yet reached that specific episode, but the JLUcast is a great podcast about that show)!

Back to this book. Like the TV show, we see Dr. Destiny control the dreams of the League, in an attempt to kill them (it’s obvious the show lifted its premise from here), but of course, good guys beat bad guy. Not that it’s boring mind you, the villain really makes the heroes look pretty pathetic for a while. We also get to see the heroes as their civilian alter egos, and normal everyday stuff. It was quit refreshing.

As expected, the names in the credits are absolute staples of the Bronze Age. Writer Gerry Conway does a fine job with the script/story, and does insert some of his personal beliefs/social commentary in the issue as well. He, along with a lot of the other writers of the time were very good at sending messages without being overt or preachy about it (kudos).  The artistic chores fell on the shoulders of another pair of names synonymous with the age. Dick Dillin (pencils) and Frank McLaughlin (inks) were both on point here and did a fine job with a lot going on in this issue. Two more names in Jerry Serpe (colors) and Ben Oda (letters) round out the interior art team. The cover is by Mike Kaluta and Al Milgrom, and although it is pretty good, it’s also not quite what you’d expect. Not sure if it’s the team up of these two guys or just not the greatest layout or composition.

 

 

Kull the Destroyer 11, 1973 “King Kull Must Die!”

Certain names in the comic book industry invoke thoughts of titles. Any classic comic book reader will tell you this is true. A character like Kull will always make me think of Robert E. Howard. This man had a very short time on Earth, but the impact he left is still being felt today. But I digress…King Kull is a pre-Conan era (or Pre-cataclysmic Age) character that ruled the kingdom of Valusia. He’s sort of like Conan in the fact that he loves battle, but he’s also more intelligent about when there is a need for battle and how to strategize for it as well. He also has a confidant named Brule. Brule is a member of the Pict society, and a fierce warrior that will do anything for his friends. In this issue, Kull is about to be attacked by his own people, who are under the influence of an ages old foe…Thulsa Doom!

Mike Ploog is one of those creators that has done such incredible work during the Bronze Age, that his name will carry on for decades. Of course, Werewolf by Night, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Ghost Rider are the big names, but don’t sleep on his other work for Marvel comics. A short run on this title is all the proof you need to realize there is more out there! Writer/editor Roy Thomas (original story by REH), art by Mike Ploog, colors by Linda Lessman, and letters by Artie Simek!

 

Man-Thing 1, 1979 “Regeneration…and Rebirth!”

Once again, I feel forced to spotlight my favorite swamp monster, Man-Thing! Swamp Thing, The Heap, and IT!, are all pretty cool, heck, I even like the Atlas Comics Bog Beast (more on these others, plus more Manny in the future). It’s true that all of these monsters owe their basics to Theodore Sturgeon, as he wrote a prose story (IT!), back in 1940. Personally, the mute Man-Thing stands tall above the others, though, and a man named Steve Gerber is the reason. But back to this comic!

In this first issue of the second series, a scientist is on the verge of discovering the secret to the work Ted Sallis was doing before the accident. Next, we still get a story that has some familiar tropes (Manny gator wrasslin’, super science, and an origin flashback). Throw in a secret base, seedy individuals, and the FBI, and you get another great story revolving around the premiere muck monster on the planet!

Cover by Bob Wiacek, written by Michael Fleisher, art by Jim Mooney (pencils) and Bob Wiacek (inks), colors by Carl Gafford, and letters by John Costanza! Definitely check out this series, as it’s pretty solid and fun.

 

 

The Brave and the Bold 95, 1971 “C.O.D. Corpse on Delivery”

The simple formula of Batman plus another hero and let them solve of mystery/beat down some villains sounds kind of dry, but wait, don’t despair, when you get a creative team like this one, it’s all good. Before we get to that though, this issue did show a female antagonist for Batman, and not Catwoman, so that was refreshing. In this her first appearance, Ruby Ryder is shown as extremely ruthless, and willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants. And don’t be mistaken, as she does hire muscle but she’s also not afraid to get the job done herself!

A story this wild (and believe me, it is) could only be written by “Zany” Bob Haney. I’m quite sure no one else could’ve written this one, as it requires a touch only he could apply. The artist, Nick Cardy, was his usual reliable self in this issue. He understands completely how to relay a story visually, especially Batman. And yes, spoiler alert, the surprise guest is none other than Plastic Man! There is a great quiet moment between the two heroes at the end, and really tops off the story nicely. The awesome cover is by Neal Adams!

 

 

Teen Titans 43, 1973 “Inherit the Howling Night!”

A Teen Titans lover I am not, but when I see a cover with demons beating up on superheroes, It’s mine. This bizarre story is the stuff of legend, as the team must help an old man and his grandson as they’re plagued by a horde of demons. It’s going tot take the entire team and some extra help from Lilith Clay, to get to the bottom of this creepy caper!

If there is one name from the DC past that I love as much as any name at Marvel during the same period, it’s “Zany” Bob Haney (writer). His work reminds me more of the Marvel Bronze Age than anything going on at DC ever. His writing reminds me a little of Steve Gerber. He can write stories that have plot holes or just don’t seem to make a lot of sense, but they’re extremely entertaining, and so strange anyone that has whatever disease it is I have, gets instantly memorized. The art team of Art Saaf (pencils) and Nick Cardy (inks) does the story complete justice. The demons are freaky looking and fit in perfectly with the early 1970s craziness. All of the Titans look great as well, and everything in the backgrounds is on point. The letters are by Ben Oda, and although most don’t really give this job much credit, his story name on the splash page is excellent! The cover is of course by long time DC stalwart, Nick Cardy. People probably mostly recognize his name for his superhero work, but don’t sleep on his horror efforts, because they are great!

 

Marvel Fanfare 6, 1983 “Switch Witch”

It’s once again time to talk a walk on the  Strange side of Marvel Comics! The title Marvel Fanfare was one that not only featured some up and coming creators, but also characters that didn’t get a ton of airplay or were displaced from a title, with no home. The first story (“Switch Witch”, by Mike Barr – plot/script, Sandy Plunkett – pencils/plot, P. Craig Russell – inks, Jim Novak – letters, and Petra Goldberg – colors)does have Spider-Man in it, but the story also features The Scarlet Witch, and the evil sorcerer Xandu! It’s a tale where Xandu uses his sorcery to place Wanda’s soul inside the body of Melinda Morrison, in the Death Dimension. All because Melinda had previously died (but he kept her body “warm”…yes, creepy) and wants to marry her.

The second story in this issue, gives us “The Showdown!” We see a young upstart sorcerer, Ian McNee, challenge The Sorcerer Supreme himself, Dr. Strange! The young man finds out rather quickly that what you think you want isn’t necessarily something you are ready for! Roger Stern (writer), Charles Vess (art), Ron Zalme (letters), and Glynis Wein (colors) are the great creative team behind this excellent chapter in the Doc’s life.

The stories were edited by Allen Milgrom (Mr. Everything at Marvel), and the magnificent front cover is by P. Craig Russell! Not to be outdone, we get an equally awesome back cover by Charles Vess!

 

 

House of Mystery 155, 1965 “The Nightmare Express!”

Ridin’ that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better watch your speed,” The Grateful Dead famously said in a song. Maybe they were talking about the Nightmare Express? If so, drugs might be a good scapegoat for this one (just kidding). Anyway, there are three cool stories in this one and all of them are completely crazy. Translation- it’s an a awesome book!

The first story is about J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars! Now don’t get too excited, as he’s fighting the “Giant Genie of Gensu”…yeah. So that story isn’t the greatest, but it has really cool artwork with some hilarious shenanigans (Jack Schiff, writer, art by Sheldon Moldoff, letters by Ira Schnapp). Next up is a tale called “The Human Hurricane!” Mitch Anderson is a guinea pig for scientist and ends up becoming, you guessed it, a human hurricane (story by Jack Miller, art by Joe Certa, and letters by Stan Starkman). Lastly, we climb aboard “The Midnight Express!” But don’t expect to see John Hurt or Randy Quaid, as this one has Detective John Sutter, on his way home from work, and he gets a ride on a train that he’ll never forget. Or was it even real (written by Jack Miller, art by Bernard Baily, letters by Stan Starkman). This very groovy cover is by Jack Sparling!

 

 

Super-Villain Team-Up 10, 1976 “The Sign of the Skull!”

Don’t be alarmed, but this issue is actually part four, the conclusion to a crossover with The Avengers (155, 156, along with SVTU 9). In this wild story we see everything from Dr. Doom, two of him to be exact…then the Avengers, Shroud, The Whizzer, the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, Attuma, and of course the Red Skull!

It was only 1976, but this crossover had a a lot going on. You have Cap and Doom, first fighting, then agreeing to team up against a common foe. Then we have Subby fighting off an attack on Atlantis. And if all that wasn’t enough, you see a fake Dr. Doom (Rudolfo) and Shroud being attacked by the Red Skull and his forces who have taken over Latveria! Yeah, a lot going on, but a ton of fun!

The credits for this book are a roll call of Bronze/Copper Age awesomeness. You get Bill Mantlo (Micronauts, ROM) writing this one, and it fits his style perfectly with all the shenanigans. The art team is Bob Hall (pencils) and Don Perlin (inks), and these two guys work very well together. The rest of the team is Denise Wohl (letters), Don Warfield (colors), and Archie Goodwin (editor)! And the fabulous cover is by Gil Kane and Ernie Chan (some alterations by John Romita)!

 

Where Monsters Dwell 5, 1970 “Taboo Lives Again!”

After a few weeks of superheroes, it’s time for more monsters! Not the usual Bronze Age fare (well technically not even though this is a reprint from 1970), but material from the preceding Silver or “Atlas Age” at Marvel comics. During this time, you had Stan Lee writing and editing just about everything (some work by Larry Lieber and a few others, but the overwhelming majority was Lee), and two giants of the industry penciling. Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko are undoubtedly two of the most influential creators of the medium, but not for this material, as most know. But, don’t sleep on these comics, because they do offer some really good artwork, and some interesting stories as well.

The four stories in this reprint book are all very different, as one features a giant monster (The Return of Taboo, Strange Tales 77, 1960), a sorcerer (The Strange Magic of Master Khan, Strange Tales 77 as well), aliens (We Met in the Swamp, Tales to Astonish 7, 1960), and a ghost (I Lived a Ghost Story, ST 7 as well)! Credits include – Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Paul Reinman, Dick Ayers, and Artie Simek (with possible alterations by Marie Severin).