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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird War Tales 70, 1978 “The Blood Boat!”

In this, week two of #warcomicsmonth we have another delightful addition to the siege from the pages of Weird War Tales! From the incredible splash page of this comic, you get a real feeling of dread. The Sargasso Sea reference immediately makes me think of Johnny Quest, and that awesome episode that took place in that very location. As Death himself explains how there are seas that make that one seem insignificant, he also  explains how he’ll show the readers just what a horrible death is all about!

In “Blood Boat” we see a PT boat, as it spots a man drifting helplessly in the ocean. They pick him up, and he explains how he was on a ship that was sunk by a Japanese sub days earlier.  How he alone survived is a bit of a mystery, though. We next see how the Captain has been under tremendous stress, and he’s also really at odds with his job versus his morals. He slips off to sleep, and has a terrible nightmare about Van Derling (the guy they picked up in the ocean). He then awakens to find the ship a mess, and many of his men dead with the traditional vampire bite marks on their throat! Written by J.M. Dematteis, art by Dick Ayers and Dan Adkins, colors by Jerry Serpe, and letters by Jean Simek.

A quick one-pager called “Death’s Double Agent” comes next. The story revolves around a man who escapes German captivity. The senior officer tells his subordinates that it’s all in the plan, though, as he’s been brainwashed to be a double agent! Written by Mike Barr, art by Jerry Bingham and Romeo Tanghal, and colors by Jerry Serpe.

Finally we have “The Lonely Road to Life.” In this tale, we see war training in space! A young hot dog pilot almost causes an accident, but he couldn’t care less as long as it gets him noticed by his superiors. In the end, he winds up alone and with something truly horrifying looming over him! Written by Jack Oleck, art by Alex Niño, colors by Jerry Serpe, and letters by Erick Santos.

The cover is by perennial creepy cover artist, Luis Dominguez! There are also some absolutely classic ads in this one as well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird War Tales 69, 1978 “City of Death!”

Now that we’ve managed to escape October with our skins intact, it’s time for #warcomicsmonth (follow this hashtag on Twitter)! So, with that being said, the next five weeks will be saturated with books chocked full of tanks, soldiers, and maybe even some ghouls! The war comic books from all the publishers had their ups and downs, but for the most part, they were great. You had super realistic books like Blazing Combat, and crazy titles like…Weird War Tales!

In this specific issue, we get four stories, and they are fun! The intro page (by Howard Chaykin), shows Death himself, as he asks a simple question- “which war is really the war to end all war?” It’s a valid and scary question, even if it is from a comic book character. It also looks like the Death Star is in the background, so I guess Earth is just about toast anyways.

The first story in the book is called “The Phantom with My Face!” It starts out with a medic that seems like a Nazi sympathizer, but we realize he’s just a good guy with a good heart. He does however get haunted by a ghost soldier that keeps trying to get him to kill. Written by Scott Edelman, art by Romeo Tanghal, colors by Jerry Serpe, and letters by Milt Snappin.

In “The Day After Doomsday,” we watch a war between mutants and what’s left of humanity after a cataclysmic event that has ravaged the planet! Written by Jack Oleck, art by Alex Niño, and colors by Jerry Serpe.

In our last regular length story, “The Soldiers from Heaven” we see some Conquistadors learn a valuable lesson after they savagely kill some natives. The native’s god comes to life to take revenge! Written by Arnold Drake, art by Bill Draut and Bob Smith, colors by Jerry Serpe, and letters by Milt Snappin.

Finally, we have a two-pager called “Atrocities!” A Lovecraftian creature is doing battle with some spacemen, but the monster might not be what it seems. Written by Jack C. Harris, art by Howard Chaykin, and colors by Jerry Serpe.

And of course, as with many many books from DC comics, we get a great cover by one of the best artists to ever put pencil to page, Joe Kubert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Spectacular! Featuring DC comics “The Witching Hour!”

I really struggled with this year’s Halloween blog post at first. Typically I know well in advance what material I want to spotlight for Halloween, but 2020 was different (heh). In this issue of The Witching Hour, we get a ton of content, as this is a Super Spectacular 100 page issue! All started off by a fantastic cover by Nick Cardy! Thirteen unlucky stories reside within these pages (not counting the intro/outro), so there’s no time to waste pontificating!

 

 

First up, we have “Makers of the Mist.” This is a tale of a cursed village, and an unspeakable evil that resides in the nearby mountains! Written by Gerry Conway, with art by Murphy Anderson and letters by Irv Watanabe! Fun little tale, but the ending doesn’t really fit a horror book. Awesome art by Anderson, though.

 

 

Til Death Do Us Join,” is a very strange tale involving grave robbers, and one in particular that marries…a corpse? Written by Bob “Zany” Haney, and art by Pat Boyette (he did a lot of work for Charlton).

 

 

The next story, “The Ever Constant Drum” shows a slave trader in Africa that winds up on the wrong (or right) side of the whip! Story by David Kaler, art by Reginald and Stanley Pitt.

 

 

In “Save the Last Dance for Me,” we see a millionaire and former Broadway star that has a bad attitude and an incredibly awful moral compass, named Thurgood Trapley. He’s paid a scientist/inventor to invent a time machine. The man actually does it and we see the future which shows some wild scenes, one of which shows Trapley fighting a Dalek (not kidding here). Written by Denny O’Neil, with art by Pay Boyette.

 

 

The next story is called “Eternal Hour.” In this one we have a haunted clock tower, a diminutive person, and a shock ending! Written, penciled and inked by Alex Toth!

 

 

This next story might have the greatest name in the history of comic books. “The Perfect Surf or How to Make Waves Without Really Trying!” A fun tale that ends in a hilarious way! I can’t help but think of Point Break when I read this one! Art by Jack Sparling.

 

 

On to “The Man with the Stolen Eyes.” This Golden/Silver Age reprint (1956) has no creator credits, but is a gem of a story. Reminiscent of the EC comics stories of the time, it involves a blind man that uses bribery to get his sight back, but eventually, regrets it!

 

 

Other than inks by George Roussos, this is another tale with credits that are tough to find. “Brush with Death”  -Is there such a thing as a haunted painting? Well, after you read this story, you will believe!

 

 

Another reprint is upon us, and “Dream Girl” is one for the ages. A wizard, an occult convention, and a man obsessed with a vision of a woman he’s in love with are the subject of this wild one! Art by Bob Brown and Jim Mooney, with letters by Artie Simek.

 

 

Mildred is our host for this next story. “The Demon in the Mirror” is more of a standard horror story from the time (1952). A hood is taken out by a regular Joe, but he vows revenge by any means possible! Written by Robert Kanigher, art by Alex Toth and Sy Barry, with letters by Gaspar Saladino!

 

 

The Phantom Ship” is about a crook who’s breaking into cabins aboard a ship and looting them. He then slips on the deck and falls into the ocean. What happens after that is absolutely ghastly! Art by George Papp.

 

 

In the penultimate story “Round Trip to the Past,” Cynthia (the host) tells us about a man who inherits some antiques, one piece of which is a diary that tells a spooky tale about a wizard from the year 1297! Art by George Papp, and letters by Artie Simek.

 

 

Finally, we get “Trail of the Lucky Coin!” According to legend, if you find the lucky coin and then give it away to someone, you’ll be brought luck! A bus load of people that end up in a crash might not feel very lucky, though! Writer, Jack Miller, pencils by Mort Drucker, letters by Gaspar Saladino.

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 23, 1973 “Panic in the Night!”

In this second week of October fun, it will be my last week spotlighting the Phantom Stranger, sadly. No worries though, as I’m sure he’ll make more appearances down the road. This is my last issue from this run, though. but the other issues that feature a different creative team are still pretty good. The character is awesome but for me, these two creators took him to heights no one else had before or since. Alright, onto the story…

The setting is Paris, France, and the police find a prowler in a cathedral. He’s ringing the bells and laughing at his behavior at the same time. The villain looks like the Gentleman Ghost, but the police refer to him as Quasimodo. A plane lands at the airport, and the Phantom Stranger and Cassandra Craft exit the aircraft, and she tells the Stranger that her powers of perception are telling her this is the place of a disturbance. The Stranger then begins to question some locals about an organization that calls itself the Dark Circle. Later that very same night, a crowd is horrified to see the same ghostly figure from the cathedral sawing through the chain of a huge chandelier. If it falls, it will surely kill a few dozen people at the least. The Stranger jumps in at the last moment to save the day. But he still must contend with the Dark Circle, and they have abducted Cassandra! Awesome story by Len Wein in this issue. He really gets this character perfectly, and I feel it’s one of his best jobs in comics. Jim Aparo (interior and cover art) has done more than a serviceable job on many characters/books, but this one for me is right up there with his best (The Spectre, The Brave and the Bold). What a great team.

The back up story in this book is something to be celebrated as well. Marv Wolfman and Mike Kaluta (via Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) bring us “The Spawn of Frankenstein!” Two men digging in the Arctic find the remains of the Monster and are hell-bent on reanimating this abomination. A welcomed switch from Dr. 13. for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 21, 1972, “The Resurrection of Johnny Glory!”

October is finally here! As you can see, it might be a new month, but I’m going to continue to spotlight the Phantom Stranger! These issues by Wein and Aparo are right up there with any short run in comics for me. The stories are creepy and moody, and you also get a Twilight Zone vibe from them. This run needs to get more airtime, and I intend to give it to the masses. Both creators are nothing short of legends, and they deserve it.

The story starts out with a guy named Johnny, as he’s being led to the electric chair for his crimes (murder). The switch is thrown, and Johnny is toast. The onlookers flinch from the scene. Later at the morgue, two shady looking individuals show up with paperwork stating that the body of Johnny is now their property. They take the body to an underground cave, where the rest of their satanic buddies are hanging out. They perform a ritual and bring Johnny back to life! The head man tells Johnny he was resurrected to murder a saint! There’s a spiritual leader from a middle eastern country that is touring the area, and this group wants him dead! Written by Len Wein, with art by Jim Aparo!

As usual, we get a Dr. 13 backup story. “Woman of Stone” is the usual set up where he debunks something that appears to be magic/sorcery. Not a big fan of the character, but I do recognize good scripting by Len Wein and art by Tony DeZuniga.

The cover is super cool, but I do have a nitpick about it. It’s the exact same image from the first splash page inside the issue. And I mean exact, no variation whatsoever (except the background). So kudos to Aparo for the cover, but the fact that it’s reused for an interior page is not awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 125, 1969 “Superman’s Saddest Day!”

Alright, look, I’m gonna be straight with you. I might just turn this blog into a crazy Superman blog. OK, I’m not going to do that, but insane Superman stories have become my new obsession. While Marvel was publishing stories about social inequality and Charlton had cool stories of Science Fiction, war, and the Warren magazines were top of the food chain with their edgy, horror stories, then you had DC, on the cusp of a completely new universe thanks to Jack “King” Kirby and his Fourth World (among other ideas), but then still putting out crazy books like this one. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love this type of comic book now (2020), but as a kid, I would’ve thought it was the dumbest book on the rack. Most probably thought so too, as the numbers show people had flocked to Marvel. But, looking back, these silly adventures are a lot of fun and definitely will entertain you!

In the lead story, Jimmy is up to his old shenanigans. He’s on vacation in the Caribbean, and how he can afford a vacation like that nobody knows. He’s scuba diving, and gets caught in some kind of whirlpool that drags him into the depths of the ocean. He sees a sunken ship and a book laying inside it. It’s a book written by Nostradamus, but since its been underwater for so long, almost all of the predictions are faded. He can read one though, and it exclaims that if you can obtain tears from a clown, a king, a criminal, and wait for it…a Kryptonian, you can get an unknown power! So, Jimmy sets out to achieve this goal! An absolutely crazy tale by Leo Dorfman (writer) and Pete Costanza (art)!

The second story “The Spendthrift and the Miser,” shows an out of control Jimmy, spending money like crazy during the day, but then acting like he’s broke at night. At one point, he walks out into the street to pick up a penny and almost gets run over by a car! Superman intervenes and eventually finds out that some crooks have Jimmy hypnotized into doing these insane things. Written by Otto Binder, with art by Curt Swan and Ray Burnley.

Get out there and find a copy of this book (and any of these Silver Age Superman comics), because even if it’s a reader copy, it’ll be worth your time for sure! Cover  by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson!