Adventure Comics 486, 1981 – Dial “H” for Hero “Hell on Earth”

Without going into extensive details, Adventure Comics has a long history which includes runs of Supergirl, members of the JSA, Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes, The Spectre, and Dial H for Hero! This unlikely team of heroes (the 2nd iteration), fights crime as any good hero does, and sometimes things get a bit crazy, like when Grockk (son of the devil) shows up and decides to take over the Earth! It’s up to Vicki Grant (Puma/Sulphur) and Christopher King (Enlarger Man/Brimstone) to stop him!

These new stories were written by Marv Wolfman (who’s no stranger to the macabre having written the Tomb of Dracula!). Wolfman is one of those writers who can tackle any genre, and he’s proved it over the decades continuously. The art is by none other than Silver Age stalwart, Don Heck (co-created Sunfire, Hawkeye, Black Widow, etc.)! The letters are by John Costanza. The cover is by the always awesome George Pérez!

 

 

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Moon Knight 5, 1980 “Ghost Story”

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more strange character than Moon Knight. He’s a man who has money, women, good looks, etc. Basically everything most people want, but he also has some serious issues. Initially, he was just a crime fighter with some quirks, but eventually he was shown to have some mental problems, such as schizophrenia. In this early issue though, Marc Spector was more of a Batman knock-off than anything (not to seem disrespectful, but it’s true), and fought the villain of the week for the most part. But you did get a story once in a while, that was off-beat and caught your attention. This is one of them for sure!

The story shows two boys that go check out a “haunted house” in the local neighborhood. Turns out that house is the center of some seedy goings-on, and Moon Knight is there to shut it down. There’s only one problem, it actually might be haunted by a shotgun wielding skeleton!

The story is a good one, and all the credit to Doug Moench (writer) for it. Good action, dialogue, etc. His work on this title and much more from the Bronze Age is great. The art team is Bill Sienkiewicz (pencils and cover art) and Klaus Janson (inks), and both of these gentlemen are very prolific. They have made very good contributions to the medium and should be remembered for them. Bob Sharen (colors), Rick Parker (letters), and Denny O’Neil (editor) round out the creative team!

 

 

 

Conan the Barbarian 102 and 103, 1979 “The Men Who Drink Blood!”

The character Conan, created by Robert E. Howard, is one that some feel can be a little one note, but Howard and those that followed did a great job in changing the surroundings, supporting cast, and opponents for the Cimmerian brawler. Case in point, these two issues where Conan must fight a vampire and his clan of razor-toothed warriors!

At this point, Conan has lost his love, Bêlit (she died in issue #100), and he has taken up residence with the Bamula Tribe (and become their chieftain), who is at war with the Kungado Tribe. Conan and his mates are viciously attacked by another tribe, called the Drelliks. These men are, in appearance at least, vampires! It’s going to take every ounce of strength and cunning for Conan to defeat these monsters!

One of the best reasons you can find to read these stories is of course, the creative team. Roy Thomas (writer), was the man at Marvel responsible for them acquiring the rights to print these incredible stories. Marvel then made the great decision to have first Barry Windsor-Smith, then ‘Big’ John Buscema create the visuals for these incredible books. His command of anatomy, ability to convey feelings through body language, and settings. His skills as a penciller are right at the top of the all time greats. Inking this legendary man, is Ernie Chan, who was the perfect fit for Buscema’s pencils, and the work shows it. Add George Roussos on colors, and Joe Rosen on letters, and the perfect comic book series is complete! The covers are both penciled by John Buscema, with the first inked by Al Milgrom, and the second by Bob McLeod.

 

Marvel Comics: Thongor Warrior of Lost Lemuria!

Led Zeppelin once famously said…”in the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man.” Apparently the boys from England had a run in with Thongor Warrior of Lost Lemuria! He’s all man with his big muscles and sword (insert laughter here)! Overall, I find the possibilities of such theories fascinating, and its super cool that there are scientists out there today trying to find some facts to certain oddities and inconsistencies that exist in the world.

OK, back to facts! This character was created by sci-fi/fantasy writer Lin Carter in the 1960s. Carter wrote quite a bit of material, and was a colleague of L. Sprague de Camp (another huge name in sci-fi/fantasy). Both men (and countless others) were influenced by the giants Robert E. Howard and Howard Phillips Lovecraft. The character is very Conan-esque, but the setting really sets it apart from that other barbarian.

These stories were written by George Alec Effinger (issue 23), Gardner Fox (issue 26), and Steve Gerber (issue 28), respectively. Effinger was a sci-fi novelist that wrote only a few comics in his abbreviated life (he passed away at only 55 yrs old). Most will recognize the name of legend Fox, who wrote in the comic book industry from the 1940s into the 1970s, co-creating The Flash, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and the JSA, and creating the DC multiverse in his story “Flash of Two Worlds!” The man is a giant, nuff said. Lastly, we have the extremely eclectic and influential Steve Gerber. Not going into the myriad of things he created and influenced, suffice to say he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves and was a renaissance man for sure. His ability to write stories with societal issues and the like, but was able to do it while forcing the reader to look at said issues without forcing an opinion on to them. A rare talent indeed.

Artistically, these books all have covers by ‘Jazzy Johnny Romita, and interiors by Val Mayerik (with inks by Vince Colletta on issue 23, and Wayne Howard on 26), and Vicente Alcazar (issue 28). Glynis Wein, George Roussos, Petra Goldberg (colorists), John Costanza, Tom Orzechowski, Charlotte Jetter (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor), round out the creative teams! There a repints in the back of each issue as well, so that just adds to the cool content you already get in this title (Ditko and Heck to name a couple of names)!

 

 

Creatures on the Loose 18, 1972 “The Fury of Phra!”

The titles of horror comics Marvel produced in the late Silver and early Bronze Age (and everyone else mainstream) were pretty tame, thanks (no thanks really) to the Comics Code Authority. Some good material for sure, just nothing cutting edge until the CCA was toned down. One of those titles was Tower of Shadows, but that was later changed to Creatures on the Loose. At first it served as just another vehicle to reprint older stories, but in issue sixteen, we saw a character called Gullivar Jones Warrior of Mars take over. The run of stories for this character didn’t last long, but they were pretty cool. Basically a clone of John Carter, Jones fought on other worlds against fantastical beasts and despots, often with no real agenda. Alas, the stories aren’t Earth-shattering, but the visuals definitely make them worth checking out.

Written by George Alec Effinger and Gerry Conway, with at by Ross Andru (pencils) and Sam Grainger (inks), and letters by Jean Izzo. There are also two back up stories in this issue, and both are reprints and quite good. The first one is “Under the Knife” has art by Tony DiPreta, while the second “What Lurks in the Mountain” is a Steve Ditko and Stan Lee production! And the cover to this one is by the artistic machine of Gil Kane (pencils) and Joe Sinnott (inks)!

 

Gold Key comics – Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery and Dark Shadows

Everybody knows about the “big two” in comics, plus hardcore horror comics like EC comics titles, but there were others and one of them was Gold Key Comics. Western Publishing company produced children’s books for a long time then threw their hat into the ring of comics in 1962. They had some original series but were more famous for their licensed properties, such as Buck Rogers, Disney characters like Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, etc. Two more of those titles being Dark Shadows and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery.

Both series had some very bizarre issues (especially Boris Karloff), but they always had great covers, usually the painted variety. The interiors sported artwork from some of the creators from the Golden Age right on up to the young blood of the Bronze Age. This mix of creative juices always had interesting results, and definitely gave older fans and younger ones something to look forward to.

Credits include (for Boris Karloff 39 & 41)- Len Wein, Joe Certa, John Celardo, Win Mortimer, Jack Sparling, Giorgio Cambiotti, Oscar Novelle, Luis Dominguez, and a few more that are uncredited. Dark Shadows (9) – painted cover by George Wilson, interior art by Joe Certa, written by D. J. Arneson, and letters by John Duffy.

 

The Phantom Stranger 30, 1974 “The Children’s Crusade!”

The magical and mystical is an area of comic books that should never get boring. With so many ways you can go with the story, characters, and settings, it’s a wealth of creativity. One of the grooviest characters under the DC comics banner is definitely the Phantom Stranger. His history is shrouded in mystery, but his prowess as a magical being is not. Immortality, teleportation (of the highest order), energy blasts, time travel, all sorts of magical spells and even omniscience!

In this particular issue, we see the Phantom Stranger up against a Pied Piper type villain that has a group of youths mesmerized, and worshiping a demonic entity! The kids are completely in his sway and wish only to do his bidding. And although the Phantom Stranger is powerful, he underestimates the power of his enemy, and pays for it dearly. He’s captured and seemingly helpless against these forces of evil! Written by Arnold Drake, art by Gerry Talaoc, and edited by Joe Orlando!

There’s also a back up story featuring the “Spawn of Frankenstein.” This multi-part story ran in the back pages of Phantom Stranger for a few issues (this was the last chapter, it switched over to Black Orchid with the next issue). Honestly, to say it borders on the bizarre is a compliment. I’ve only read a couple of these so I’m not even 100% sure what the end game was for this story line. Writer, Steve Skeates, artist, Bernard Baily.

 

The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange (2010)

I’m finding it more difficult these days to find good comic books, but every once in a while, something very good turns up. In 2009/10, Marvel released “Super Issues” with 48 pages of black and white content that was all new material. In this specific issue, we get four stories that are excellent! Only one of the stories features a regular Marvel villain, the rest are supernatural. All are very different in appearance but the same in the Master of the Mystic arts is in them!

The first tale “The Cure” is one that involves a “doktor” that promises help through a kind of group therapy. In the end though, the dark lord Mephisto has something more sinister in mind! Written by Kieron Gillen and art by Frazer Irving.

Next we see an abusive relationship gone awry. “Melancholia” shows us a woman possessed by a demon. This one also has a very interesting ending, one that I’m not sure has ever been revisited. Written by Peter Milligan, art by Frank Brunner!

The third story (“So This is How it Feels”) is one of the most daring stories about the Doc. He’s become an alcoholic, and is wandering the city streets in search of his next bottle. He runs into one man who has a very special bottle, and it’s one that Stephen Strange will never forget! Written and dawn by Ted McKeever.

Last but certainly not least, Doctor Strange remembers a time when he was still under the tutelage of the Ancient One. Stephen ends up in the Dark Dimension and in battle with one of Dormammu’s minions. The story is mostly prose with one splash page and two small illustrations.  Written by Mike Carey with illustrations by Marcos Martin.

 

 

Classics Illustrated: The War of The Worlds (1954)

After seeing a post in a FB group a while back, I started to wonder- which is my oldest comic? Well, it took some investigating, but I can now say that it’s this issue of Classics Illustrated that is my oldest comic book (1954). It’s not in the greatest shape, but I’m pretty sure I only paid a buck or two for it at a local show. The film is of course iconic, but when I saw this comics, it called to me.

Honestly, I’m not familiar with the creators of this adaptation at all but after doing some research, I’ve found that the artist (cover and interiors) Lou Cameron is nothing short of a superstar. As far as the writer of this adaptation, I found absolutely nothing about Harry G. Miller. Not sure if that’s because he’s just been forgotten or his work load was minimal. Either way, he did a fine job on this one.

 

 

Strange Tales 146, “The End at Last!”

All good things must come to an end…and so did the reign of a certain creator on this title! In this awesome story, we see Dormammu battling not only his nemesis Dr. Strange and then none other than Eternity! Dormammu laid a trap for Eternity and the Doc, but things fall apart rather quickly in this issue for the fiery-headed fiend! Before that though, we do see just how powerful Dormammu is, when he confronts Eternity, and manages to hold his own for a while!

The glorious artwork by “Sturdy” Steve Ditko in this, his last issue of Strange Tales, is absolutely marvelous. There are three full splash pages that are nothing short of brilliant, and Spider-Man aside, show his best work in a superhero book. Most know of Ditko’s abrupt departure from Marvel Comics, and how he’s the biggest recluse in comic book history (to my knowledge). I’d love for him to do just one interview to set some things straight, and not listen to all the pundits speculate about certain matters. Either way, he’s one of the best creators of the industry has ever seen, and should be lauded as such. The story is scripted by “Dandy” Denny O’Neil, colors by Stan Goldberg, and letters by Artie Simek!

The other story in the book (“When the Unliving Strike!”) features Nick Fury. The story by Stan Lee, and layouts by Jack “King” Kirby, pencils by “Dashing” Don Heck, inks by “Mirthful” Mick Demeo, and letters by Sam Rosen.

 

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