Marvel’s Unsung Heroes: David Anthony Kraft

Writing about creators that I never interacted with, and/or that have been gone from this Earth a long time, is never a difficult thing for me to do. It is however, the complete opposite feeling when someone passes away I’ve had time with talking about this medium I love. David Anthony Kraft, or more appropriately, DAK!, has been a creator I interacted with online now for a few years. He was extremely cordial to the unknown people on the other end of a fiber optic cable, so much so that I thought he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met online.

I’d seen this name (DAK) in comic books from my favorite era, the Bronze Age, quite often as a fill-in writer, or as an editor. Getting to know him though, he shed a good bit of light on quite a few times where he did work, but didn’t receive credit (not for some nefarious reason, just because those were the times). Even doing some layouts/sketch ideas for covers and splash pages. This really made me look at his work in a very different way. It also made me go back and read some of these examples he recounted. He was always answering questions from fans, and almost always tagging people that he loved, especially Don McGregor (another great guy).

His window in the comics biz wasn’t decades long, and he’s probably most known for his comics magazine, Comics Interview (click here for an interview he did with Comic Book Historians). Here are a few off-beat selections from the Bronze Age. Godspeed, DAK!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super-Blog Team-Up: Doctor Voodoo Avenger of the Supernatural!

 

SBTU is back and better than ever! “The Doctor is in!,” is a great concept, as the amount of doctors in comics/pop culture is plentiful. Of course, those who know me would expect me to roll with my Twitter namesake, Doc Strange, but, not so fast! A little swerve was in order, and the first thing that popped into my brain was this awesome mini series (I think it was initially supposed to be an ongoing) by Rick Remender (writer) and artist Jefte Palo! The awesome painted covers were by Marko Djurdjevic!

Paging Doctor Voodoo, Doctor Strange, Doctor Doom. Oh yes, all three of these doctors are a huge part of this story. And let us not forget doctor Hellstrom…well, OK, Daimon Hellstrom, isn’t actually a doctor, but he’s super cool and in this story as well!

To quickly catch up, Doctor Strange made a boo boo, and relinquished the powers of the sorcerer supreme. The Eye of Agamotto sought out a new champion, and Brother Voodoo was chosen! The series doesn’t waste any time getting frenetic, as Doctor Voodoo immediately taxes his powers and abilities too much (after being warned not to by Dr. Strange), and winds up getting a beat down by Dr. Doom. As if that wasn’t bad enough, his staff is broken so he gets stuck in an alternate dimension for a time as well. Enter Daimon Hellstrom. We all know he can be a wild card, but Doctor Voodoo trusts him, but immediately regrets it. You see, Hellstrom is under the influence of Nightmare, and while in this other dimension, Nightmare is wreaking havoc on Earth!

This five issue series (I believe it was supposed to be an ongoing but was cancelled) is a lot of fun, and it really brought Brother Voodoo out of the shadows and into a big spotlight. For an old school horror/Bronze Age fan like me, it was long overdue. During the series, we were also given a neat issue, as Marvel released a one-shot “The Origin of Jericho Drumm!” In this book, we get a framing sequence by none other than Rascally Roy Thomas, with art by Alex Massacci, colors by Chris Sotomayor, and letters by Dave Lanphear. The issue then gave us Strange Tales 169 and 170 (Brother Voodoo’s first appearance), plus a story from the excellent black and white horror magazine, Tales of the Zombie (6)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the other awesome participants in this round of Super Blog Team Up!

Between The Pages Blog – The World’s Most Popular Football Holder & Psychiatrist – Lucy van Pelt

Daves Comics Blog – Dr. Fate!

SuperHero Satellite-  The 1970s Incredible Hulk Television Series: The Lonely and Tragic Life Of Doctor David Banner

Comics Comics Comics – Dr. Who!

Pop Culture Retrorama-  Dr. Terrence the Ghost Breaker

Asterisk51- Doctor Bong: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Radulich Broadcasting Network – Dr. Doolittle

Radulich Broadcasting Network – Metal hammer of Doom

 

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction 1, 1974 “Day of the Triffids”

At first sight, this magazine (published in 1975) doesn’t look like anything special. Oh the cover by Kelly Freas (with alterations by John Romita), is very cool, but sci-fi hadn’t really hit it big yet in the mainstream (pre- Star Wars, and Star Trek films). What Marvel did though, was bring in stories written by some of the greatest writers of the genre, and adapt them for comic book format. When you can slap the name Ray Bradbury on your cover, it’s going to sell some books for sure.

As if the spectacular cover wasn’t enough, we get a frontispiece by Spanish master, Esteban Maroto! Most of Marvel’s magazines had these pin ups inside the front cover, and some even at the end of the issue. Using Bradbury’s name on the cover was a good idea, but in all honestly, the name Bob Shaw should’ve been on there as well. His concept “slow glass” is the subject of this book, and sort of introduces the other stories (and bookends as well), as a portmanteau film executes for its audience. Those pages are by Tony Isabella (script, adapted from the Shaw idea), and the art team of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer!

The first chapter is “The Day of the Triffids!”In this story (based on the John Wyndham novel), we see a particular species of tree that not only seems to be able to think for itself, but has malice toward human being as well! Written  by Gerry Conway, with art by Ross Andru and Ernie Chan!

Next, we get a story written and drawn by Neal Adams! The story is an anti war/Vietnam piece told through the lens of sci-fi. The story is told almost like news blurbs, which is fascinating for 1975!

The third installment is a fabulous interview with Ray Bradbury. He speaks about his youth, and the formative that guided some of his writing. The interview is conducted by Sheldon Dorf.

Next up is a hilarious parody story (Smash Gordon!) by none other than Frank Brunner (story and art)! This one is not only comedic, but it is absolutely gorgeous to look at. If you’ve seen his work before, get ready, as this is on another level.

An atomic test in the New Mexico desert is the start of “Savage World!” Three of the people involved with the bomb test end up in an underground world. Are the rulers peaceful as they claim or not? Script by Wally Wood, and art by Al Williamson!

Another interview graces the pages of this magazine, and this time it’s with the cover artist (and artistic giant), Kelly Freas! They include a few images of his work on some science fiction books from yesteryear as well!

We then get another story that is pretty straightforward, but has a comedic ending. Automated cities of the future are now the only place you’ll find human beings. A plane crash strands a few people out in a wasteland, and as you can imagine, it doesn’t end well. Story and art by Mike Kaluta!

Finally, another chapter of Slow Glass, and this one is seven pages long! We watch as a couple who has traveled off the beaten path attempts to purchase some slow glass from an elderly man. But this man has a secret, and it’s one he doesn’t want people to know. Script by Tony Isabella, with art by Gene Colan and Mike Esposito!

As of this blog post being published, these magazines can still be had for reasonable prices on places like Ebay. Any interested parties should think about getting these sooner rather than later, as they probably won’t be reprinted any time soon (Marvel wqould probably need to get the rights to publish it again as the source material belongs to the book publisher or the estates).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detective Comics 38, 1940 “Robin the Boy Wonder!”

In an effort to support local business, I stopped by an LCS (local comic shop) around the holidays to see what they had. The store has no back issues (sad face), but they do have a great deal of trades and new comics (along with gaming supplies and tournaments). I picked up a trade that will more than likely be spotlighted at some point here if not talked about on a podcast, but for now, I’ll be focusing on a reprint edition they had in stock! I’ve always wanted to read some stories from the Golden Age of comics of importance, and while most are available in some form or another, I couldn’t pass this one up. This book has nine stories in it (plus one prose tale), but I’m only focusing in on the Batman story.

The story is one that many already know, but just in case you don’t…We see a young Dick Grayson, as he’s eavesdropping outside the office of the circus owner (he and his parents work at a circus as trapeze artists). He hears some gangsters threaten the circus, and then they leave after the owner tells them to get lost. That night at the show, not only does the young boy see his parents plummet to their deaths, he then sees the goons return to threaten the owner again, and confess to the killing. Dick runs out to call the police but before he can, he’s stopped by The Batman! He explains to Dick that he can help him bring the killers to justice, but it will require training like he’s never had before. At this moment he decides to become a lifelong crime fighter, trained by the best. Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder then set out to find and catch Boss Zucco, the man responsible for most of the crime in Gotham City!

This issue is one that everybody who’s a fan of Robin, or basically Batman and his corner of the DC universe needs to have. Look for this reprint or a trade that has it, as it’s a lot of fun. Just the grittiness of this story alone is a lot of fun, then throw in the origin of Robin and it’s just overall a great one. The other stories aren’t bad either, and definitely reflect the times (Depression era). Written by Bill Finger, art by Jerry Robinson and (maybe) Bob Kane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journey into Mystery 1, 1972 “House!”

As Stevecember chugs along, we get a classic horror tale from none other than my favorite Dr. Strange writer, Steve Englehart! Before his time on The Avengers and Dr. Strange, and long before his Justice League and awesome Batman (with Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin) work, he wrote some off-beat horror stories for Warren, DC, and of course, Marvel comics.

In this issue of Journey into Mystery, we get “House!” We see Jim Staton (a riff on Joe Staton?) wandering onto a certain property, as his car has broken down in the Kentucky wilderness. He shows himself inside, and it appears the home is abandoned. He notices how odd the entrance is, and that it sports a gate, as a castle would. Jim throws his coat on the floor, and gets ready to fall asleep for the night. He was all but asleep, and then his hand touches something on the floor. There is some sort of viscous material seeping from the walls and floors, and it freaks Staton out.  He attempts to run out of the house, but the gate slams shut. Suddenly, the carpet begins to jump up and down like the waves in the ocean. It pulls him back, further into the house. He tries to run down the hall, but there’s a huge drop off into a bottomless pit, barring his way. As he turns around towards the living room, the opening begins to close, and Staton begins to piece together what’s happening. He believes the house is alive, and it is about to eat him!

This little horror story is very reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode. And we know that’s a good thing. Englehart is more known for writing multipart stories that can last for a few issues in a row, tying continuity together from the past and present as well. No need for that here, but that’s the point. He can write any kind of story and that’s why he’s on my Mount Rushmore of comic book writers.

Story by “Stainless” Steve Englehart, and art by Ralph Reese! Tune in next week, for the conclusion of Stevecember!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comic Book’s Unsung Heroes! Steve Gerber!

 

Trapped in a world he never made, Steve Gerber was a writer that not only made his mark with his idiosyncratic style, but if you really dig deep, and explore his work, you’ll see a talent and love for the medium of comic books that was second to none. When Marvel fired Gerber after he threatened a law suit over Howard the Duck, it would’ve been easy for him to pack up and go home. Instead he kept fighting, and stayed in the business. But, most would say what he did before that time was his best work, and I would agree. Welcome to #SuperBlogTeamUp (image by @Charlton_Hero)!

 

 

When Steve Gerber came to New York in 1972, he didn’t show up with a portfolio of ideas and pitch them to Roy Thomas. All he did was take the Marvel writers test, and he was in. At first, he was just a fill in writer, but he eventually made his way to Daredevil and Submariner. He injected some wild characters and elements not seen before into those books, and this is something he’d become known for as the years went by. Alongside Gene Colan, he left his mark on DD (not the level of Frank Miller, but definitely a fun, well remembered run).

Later in 1972, Gerber scripted Adventure into Fear 11, his first shot at the character Man-Thing. This story was more akin to the Marvel horror books of the times, though, but certainly well scripted. In the next issue, we see Gerber as most remember him. Tackling the subject of racism (and for the early 1970s was nothing to over look), Gerber shows not just the evil of the subject, but an extremely good story that makes you think from a different perspective, which is always a good thing. Issue 12 really set the tone for Gerber’s work going forward, as he wrote a story about a hardcore racist and his killing of a black man (excellently rendered by Jim Starlin and Rich Buckler). Not a pleasant ending to this story, which drives his message home even more. His run on Man-Thing is my personal favorite of his works. The way he used a character that cannot speak, along with the framing characters (Richard Rory, who resembles Roy Thomas, Jenifer Kale, etc.) to tell all sorts of different stories is amazing. Oh, and he wrote two other characters that couldn’t speak (or rarely did in Simon Garth, the Zombie and The Living Mummy). This is something I can’t ever recall another writer even coming close to doing at his level.

 

 

Another story of note concerning the Man-Thing, is “Night of the Laughing Dead” (issues 5 and 6 of his own volume one series). The story is pretty deep and focuses on subjects ranging from religion to parental neglect and abuse. Again, heavy subjects, but Gerber uses a Swamp Monster, hippies, and circus performers to tell this must-read story. Steve even wrote himself into a Man-Thing story (Man-Thing 22, volume 1), and it was glorious (image below)!

 

Marvel started a team title in 1972, with a few heavy hitters. Dr. Strange, Hulk, Submariner, and the Silver Surfer adorned the pages of The Defenders. The title had a few different creative teams for the first nineteen issues, but once Gerber took the reigns (issue 20), the title emphatically took off. Over the next twenty-two issues, he’d write some superhero stories (crossover with the original Guardians of the Galaxy), another one about racism (Sons of the Serpent), and two stories that most consider quite insane (The Headmen and Nebulon and the Bozos).  Of course, insanity for one person is entertainment for the other. I fall in the category of the latter.

Most will cite Howard the Duck as Gerber’s crowning achievement, and I’m not enough of an authority to argue any different. That character is certainly the one that he had on many occasions given the impression (or said right out) was his favorite. I’m still trying to obtain everything he’s ever written but that’s going to take some time. But I’ll definitely consider it time well spent. Thanks, Steve, for all the great comic books.

 

 

Steve passed away in 2008, but his legacy and wit still lives on today, as many writers that have come since sing his praises. He was posthumously inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, and received the Bill Finger Award. If you’ve never read any comics by Steve Gerber, do yourself a favor, and give one a try!

 

Please take a look at the other contributors to this round of Super Blog Team-Up! Check out “Creators” and “What IF.” Enjoy!

 

The Tell-Tale Mind  Arak: Son of Thunder – A Lost Adventure

The Superhero Satellite- What If Peter Parker had become Speedball instead of Spider-Man?

Dave’s Comic Heroes – Blue Devil Creation

Between the Pages – Scrooge McDuckTales Woo-oo!

Comics Comics Comics…-Sergio Aragones!

In My Not So Humble Opinion-Kurt Schaffenberger, the definitive Lois Lane artist of the Silver Age.

Source Material – What If Captain Confederacy

Comic Reviews by Walt – What if the Ultraverse Had Continued?

Pop Culture Retrorama – What If The Sinister Dr. Phibes Had Been Produced!

 

Tales of the Zombie 1, 1973 “The Altar of the Damned!”

It took me quite a while, but I finally completed this series of magazines. One and four were pretty tough to find in my budget, as was the Annual, but it finally happened! This first issue is quite a treat, as it features not only super cool stories, but incredible artwork as well. Of course, the lead feature and star of the series, Simon Garth, the Zombie, is an interesting character. His stories slightly mirror that of the Man-Thing, because of one simple reason- he cannot speak. Not an easy task for any writer, but if anybody is up for it, Steve Gerber is the writer. Let us begin with an amazing cover by Boris Vallejo!

The zombie stories in this magazines are three-fold. The first, “Altar of the Damned,” shows the second appearance of the character in comics. In this one, we see voodoo rituals, and some sleazy guy (“Gyps“) controlling the whole thing in order to get control of Simon Garth. This story (art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer) serves as sort of a precursor to the second story, which is actually the very first appearance of the character (Zombie! A Man Without a Soul! in Menace 5, 1953, story by Stan Lee and art by Bill Everett). So, in short, they did a retroactive continuity (retcon) story to flesh out the character for the readers. Not a bad idea, but one that has been beaten like a dead horse since (especially in more modern comics).

Next up is a reprint from the Golden Age (Journey into Mystery 1, 1952). “Iron-Head” is a story about a seedy guy that does whatever he can to survive, including murder for money! He spends time on a ship, diving for treasure, but then gets the idea that he can take out the middle men and have all the money for himself! He blows up the ship, and gets the last but most lucrative chest for himself. He then makes his way to a nearby island, but the local natives aren’t very kind to strangers! Art by Dick Ayers!

The Thing from the Bog!,” is a visually stunning work by artist Pablo Marcos, and the story by Marv Wolfman isn’t half bad either! We see a rotting corpse rise the from the bog, a witch casting a spell, and her untimely death! But her death was not in vain, as we see her “people” slowly rise from their graves! The last page of this story is nothing short of heart-wrenching, and deserving!

There is also a quick little two page story by horror master Tom Sutton! “Mastermind” is a Frankenstein’s Monster homage that has the good doctor regretting his action almost immediately!

The bookend story for Simon Garth, “Night of the Walking Dead!,” picks up where the first half left off, as the sleazy Gyps is dead, and Donna Garth identifies him for the coroner. She then obtains the voodoo coin from the police, and immediately gets a bad feeling. Meanwhile, in the graveyard, we see something or someone, stirring. Simon Garth rises from his grave, and is attacked by a dog (with a hunter). He kills the animal brutally, then makes his way towards the coin, as if its calling to him. Written by Steve “Baby” Gerber, art by “Big” John Buscema and Syd Shores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creepy Presents Steve Ditko- “Black Magic”

After hearing about this hardcover on a podcast (The Longbox of Darkness), I made a note to seek it out before too long! It finally arrived a few short week’s ago, and I can’t be happier about the purchase. The only work I’d previously seen from Steve Ditko was 90% Marvel, and the rest from Charlton. All good material in its own right, but when you see the work by Ditko in this format (black and white anthology stories), you’ll come to appreciate his brilliance even more. Huge thanks to Dark Horse Comics for putting out this material!

The story begins in Europe during the Dark Ages. A sorcerer named Valdar is showing off his skills to the kings court. There is one soldier that doesn’t seem impressed, and Valdar conjures up a wraith that strangles the man, and shows him the error of his ways! He then leaves to summon his minion and descend to the catacombs and perform a spell, but before he can reach the tomb in which he seeks, he’s confrontred by his former master! They have a brief duel, but the former student scurries away and ultimately finds his prize! Script by Archie Goodwin, art by Steve Ditko!

Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that this story is very entertaining. It does bear a strong resemblance to the Doctor Strange stories you got from Ditko and Lee in Strange Tales, but it doesn’t really detract from the fun. The evil sorcerer is very similar to Baron Mordo, but other than that, it’s all good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird War Tales 92, 1980 “The Ravaging Riders of Ruin!”

Another week in November means another book for #warcomicsmonth! And from an artistic perspective, this one is top of the food chain for me. Starting with an awesome (as usual) cover from Joe Kubert, we get two big stories that deliver the goods! The best thing about this title is that it didn’t just focus on WWII, which would have been the easy route. They’d jump all over the map with these stories, and that was great.

The first story “The Ravaging Riders of Ruin!” we see a battle during the Crusades. In a war for Holy Land, these warring factions are brutal. As these two savage armies fight, a ghost brigade appears, and the crap really hits the fan. One of the Arabs and one of the Catholic warriors get pulled into some underground chamber, and are greeted by Prester John! He warns them of an imbalance that they’ve created, and that it must be corrected! It is then up to these two men to rid the underworld of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (referred to as the “Riders of War”)! Written by Cary Burkett, art by Tom Sutton, letters by Ben Oda, with colors by Adrienne Roy.

The second story is really off the rails! “Fight Fire with Fire,” starts out with a monster attacking a tank! The beast seems impervious to the weapons of the Allies, and then after it wreaks havoc, it is recalled by it’s Nazi masters. Three Allied soldiers then infiltrate the Nazi base and see that this monster was manufactured by the Nazis themselves from soldiers! But can they control them? Written by George Kashdan, art by Frank Redondo, and colors by Bob LeRose.

*Editor’s note! Be ready next week for a special surprise, as the blog will give you something never before seen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird War Tales 77, 1979 “Three Brothers…Three Dooms!”

Typically in this title, you found multiple stories (an anthology book), with perhaps one being the center of attention based off of the cover, and one or two more of lesser length to fill out pages and creep you out. Well, in this issue, you get a full length story for the ages! A Lovecraftian beast, Adolph Hitler, and three brothers from small town U.S.A. that witness it all! And before we get started, just look at this incredible cover by Joe Kubert! The man was an absolute master!

As Death explains, we see three brothers from Baytown, in their youth, displaying feats of amazing psychic abilities. A newspaper then shows how each brother joined a separate branch of the military, and are heading to fight the Axis powers. First up, we watch as Lt. Dennis Reeves of the United States Navy is on a mission in the north Atlantic with American and British Frogmen, as they are planting bombs on the underside of Nazi ships. Dennis then doesn’t get far enough away and gets blasted from the ship, and knocked unconscious. He awakens on the shores of an island, and spots a Nazi fortress! He infiltrates the building, and using his psychic powers can feel a force that should not be there. He descends into the bowels of the fortress, and sees a Nazi commander communing with an unspeakable beast in the depths of the water. After getting captured, but then escaping, Dennis manages to get an explosive device and hurl it at the beast!

Half a world away, in a small Italian village, Sgt. Joe Reeves sees one of his men brutally killed in a tank attack. Before they know it, they’re caught in a fire fight and things don’t look good. On top of that, their tank gets stuck in a bog! Just then a skiff with a Japanese soldier comes by and they grab him and pull him inside the tank. He seems like he’s in a trance, and Joe uses his psychic powers to ascertain that he’s possessed by something inhuman. Again, the same unholy beast (or another that resembles it) from the desert fortress rises from the bog and attempts to destroy the soldiers. Joe decides to use the canon and then sets the tank forward to ram the beast. He jumps out at the last second, and swims to the shoreline. We see an enormous explosion, and the monster looks disposed of.

The last entry into this macabre trio of stories shows Bill Reeves, as he’s flying a fighter plane, but gets shot down. Somehow he’s thrown from the plane before impact (or was he?), and awakens near a Nazi bunker. He proceeds inside after seeing two guards dead by the entrance. Once inside, he peeks around a corner to see Uncle Adolph himself spouting orders to two of his hierarchy. After an aftershock (from a bomb?), Bill boogies out of the room, and heads to a lower level where Hitler is convening with the/a beast! Somehow, all three brothers end up at this place, and the three separate beasts combine into one, and it’s up to these three soldiers to get the job done!

This one was written by a guy named Bill Kelley, and honestly, I’d never heard the name before that I can remember. I see some credits for DC and Warren, and those are definitely areas that are lesser known to me. The art is by Ruben Yandoc, and I know him from some crazy stories he illustrated over at Marvel (starring the Scarecrow, the original one). The colors were by Jerry Serpe.