Spirit World 1, 1971

If you hadn’t already heard, August has been deemed Jack Kirby Month. Who decided this, you ask? The powers that be, also known as a bunch of hooligans I know on Twitter. So, with this revelation, I decided to jump to some Kirby material for the last two weeks of the blog in August. This magazine is a more recent acquisition of mine, but it was on my radar for a long time. Honestly, pretty much everything Kirby did is on my radar, and rightly so, as the man was a genius. The awesome cover, though, is more Neal Adams than Kirby (layouts), as Neal and the DC braintrust decided to change the cover a bit (according to Mark Evanier, who was employed there at the time, and editor of the book).

The first thriller in this magazine sized book is called “The President Must Die!” This story deals with a person that has a premonition that the President will fall to some trouble on a trip! Written and pencilled by Jack Kirby, inks by Vince Coletta, and letters by John Costanza.

Next up is, “The Calder House!” This is a classic haunted house tale, and the visuals are out of this world! Spirits, monsters, they’re all here! Once again written and pencilled by Jack Kirby, inks by Vince Colletta, and letters by John Costanza.

There’s a three page story, and the photo art style is something to behold. Once again, the King doing something innovative (I’m assuming this is Kirby). “Children of the Flaming Wheel” is cool!

The Screaming Woman” follows, and it is another masterpiece. In this one we see a mysterious woman, reincarnation, and witch burnings! Again, the same creative team of Kirby, Colletta, and Costanza.

The last full story is “Amazing Predictions.” This is one for the ages, as we see historical figures (Nostradamus, Mao, Napoleon, and even Adolph Hitler!), make bold predictions of the future! Again, Kirby, Colletta, and Costanza!

The book ends with a humorous story by the one and only Sergio Aragonés!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Action Comics 500, 1979 “The Life Story of Superman”

Continuing my look at Superman, this  specific comic is a newer acquisition for me, and one I’ve just finally got around to reading. Not only was I impressed with the artwork, but the story was fun as well. A landmark issue, and a whole lot of fun. Now that’s what an anniversary should be about, right? This book has a fantastic cover by Ross Andru (pencils), Dick Giordano (inks), and Tatjana Wood (colors).

Our story begins with Superman arriving at the ceremony to open up the Superman Pavilion at the Metropolis World’s Fair. All of Superman’s supporting characters are here- Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Steve Lombard, Lana Lang, and of course, Lois Lane. Mayor Harkness introduces the Man of Steel, and then he cuts the ribbon (a piece of steel he melts with his heat vision), then we’re introduced to the man who owns the pavilion, Robert Arngrim. We can see Superman gets a strange feeling about him.

Once everyone is inside, the memorabilia is receiving oohs and ahhhs from the crowd. Arngrim then asks Superman about his super memory, and he reveals that because of repeated exposure to Kryptonite, he’s having trouble recalling information from his past. Arngrim then points out that the pavilion has his mind prober ray machine, and asks Superman to give a demonstration. He acquiesces, although a bit reluctantly. We then see behind the scenes that there is another man, working in conjunction with Arngrim, to use this device to destroy Superman!

I’m sure ninety nine percent of the people that read my blog know this story and the villains behind this one, but just in case, I’ll leave that out of my post.

This is a really good story by Marty Pasko (writer). He really “gets” Superman and his personality down quite well. The artwork…what can I say other than it’s amazing. Curt Swan (pencils) is my favorite Superman artist of all time. I really enjoy his work with this character, and wish I owned more of it. Frank Chiaramonte (inks) does a fine job adding his touch as well. Adrienne Roy (colors) and Gaspar Saladino (letters) round out the creative team on this must have book!

Superman in the Fifties, 2002 Tpb

It’s no secret that I love Superman. Maybe not every iteration or every era, but I do love the character quite a bit. A big part of that love comes from two sources. First, the Superfriends TV show. I really loved the Man of Steel on the show, as he usually represented a good idea of what Siegel and Shuster tried to relay to readers back in 1938. The second source, and the most important was Christopher Reeve in Superman and Superman II. His moral code and idea that Superman is most importantly a friend to those in need is something he truly believed, and so do I.

This trade paperback really showcases some very fun content of the age, and Superman himself. At this point, Superman had more than a decade of history behind him, a radio show, cartoon (Fleischer), film serial, and a live action tv show (that was new, but a huge hit already). The popularity of the character cannot be understated, and the comic books were great, too!

Just to hit some of the highlights in here, the lead story “Three Supermen from Krypton” from Superman 65, 1950. An interesting tale that tells of three more survivors from the domed planet Krypton. Three evil beings that once challenged Jor-El himself. Written by William Woolfolk, with art by Al Plastino.

Another gem from this collection is “The Ugly Superman,” from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane 8, 1959. Perry assigns Lois to cover the sports beat, and that includes a professional wresting match! Lois compliments him, and he immediately falls for her. Superman/Clark enjoys watching her squirm. Written by Robert Bernstein, art by Kurt Schaffenberger.

You can’t speak about the trade without speaking on Action Comics 252, 1959. Otto Binder and Al Plastino bring us “The Supergirl from Krypton!” Clark sees a missile heading to Earth, and heads out to inspect the crash site. He can’t believe his eyes, as a girl, wearing a similar costume hops out of the missile. She tells him her amazing origin story of how she escape the doomed planet Krypton, and how she came to Earth.

Finally, I present, “The Bride of Bizarro!” Written by Otto Binder, with art by Al Plastino. What if I told you theres a story with Lois, Superman, Bizarro, and…another Superman that’s actually a Bizarro, but looks like the real Superman? We also get a wrecked pirate ship, Bizarro Clark, and Bizarro Lois. It’s one of the funniest comics I’ve ever read.

Do yourself a favor and seek out this trade. I bought it at a discount retailer for $5 (it’s a $20 retail)! An introduction by Mark Waid, cover galleries, and more awesome stories are inside this awesome book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Adventures 226, 1970 “Who Will Trigger World War 3?”

After a recent podcast recording (with Jennifer DeRoss, check out my podcast), I was invigorated to cover more DC sci-fi comics! This issue is more of a recent purchase, as the cover (by legendary artist, Joe Kubert) drew me in immediately. Not only the cover art, but the word “Gigantic” at the top was another selling point for sure. Two of the stories spotlight a DC comics perrenial sci-fi favorite, Adam Strange!

 

Speaking of Adam Strange, first up is “The Mechanical Masters of Rann.” An excellent story that is still relevant today, in which upon returning to Rann, Adam finds out that aliens have taken over, but also brought peace. But, peace at a price of certain freedoms. Writer, Gardner Fox, art by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson.

Up next, “Glory Ride to Pluto,” is a feel good story about a pilot on his last voyage, and his son comes along and ends up falling in love. Written by John Broome, with art by Sid Greene.

The Counterfeit Earth” is the third installment in the book. Who knew that the Great Wall of China would one day save the Earth? Story by Otto Binder, with art by Joe Kubert!

The fourth story, “A Letter from the Future,” involves robots, time vortexes, and letters from the year 2157! Story by Sid Gerson, and art by Frank Giacoia.

Next up in this Giant issue, we get “Earth’s Unlucky Day!” A quick little 4 page story about an alien invasion and a twister! Written by John Broome, with art by Seymour Barry.

The following story is the only one that is not a reprint. “The Magic-Maker of Rann,” is referred to as a “picture story.” It’s basically a prose story with spot illustrations. The best part being Adam Strange vs a fire-breathing dragon! Story by Gardner Fox, and art by Murphy Anderson.

Finally, The Atomic Knights bring us “When the Earth Blacked Out!” The premise of this team is absolutely ludicrous, but definitely interesting! A group dedicated to solving mysteries and stopping criminals, in post-apocalyptic…1992. Written by John Broome, art by Murphy Anderson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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!