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 art 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” and 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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The Phantom Stranger 33, 1974 “Deadman’s Bluff!”

Supernatural characters are a huge draw for me. Whether it’s movies, television, comics, etc., they always seem to deliver a little something extra you don’t always get from superheroes. Now, take two of these characters, put them in the same book, and you’ve got something special! On one side, you have Deadman- a temperamental ghost that inhabits the bodies of the living to get things done.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have The Phantom Stranger. A guy who has been portrayed in a few different ways over the years with a couple of back stories. Both are intriguing, engaging, and unpredictable.

I’m starting to believe there might not be a better way to start off a comic from this genre than with a cover from Jim Aparo. To say that they’re eye-catching isn’t giving them their due justice, especially when dealing with the supernatural. The story is by Arnold Drake (RIP), a man who began his career in the 1950s, and worked on everything from The X-Men to Batman. Mike Grell (art) is a name most will know from his work on titles like Green Arrow, and a host of others. He’s one of those guys that don’t get mentioned very much but made some fantastic contributions to the industry and should get more credit. The legendary Joe Orlando was the editor of this great issue and rounds out the creative team.

 

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Cinema Sunday: King Kong (1933)

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Title: King Kong

Distributor: RKO Radio Pictures

Writers: Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace (story), James Ashmore Creelman, Ruth Rose (Screenplay),

Directors: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Shoedsack

Producers: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Shoedsack, David O. Selznick

Starring: Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong, Frank Reicher

Released: March 1933

MPAA: UR

 

Although I’m partial to B-movies, every once and a while, I crave for something big. Something so huge, it must get attention. Not just huge mind you, but a film that was revolutionary. Two men that took this film and made it larger than life- Merian C. Cooper and Willis O’Brien. These two men are nothing short of pioneers in their respective fields, and if not for their achievements and courage to be visionaries, I shudder to think where the film industry would be today (or wouldn’t be).

I won’t go into a huge breakdown of the actual film, because lets be honest, the over whelming majority have seen it, and probably multiple times. This will just be a subtle reminder of how awesome this film is, and how its creators shocked the world back in 1933. Yes, amid the greatest economic downfall of this great country, these filmmakers went all out and made a movie that brought people to the theaters. I give you, King Kong…

 

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The film begins with two men talking about a “crazy” trip that a vessel will soon embark on, led by Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a wildlife photographer/filmmaker that apparently knows no fear. The first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) then yells down at the men, questioning who they are. We then see Denham and Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher), arguing over the trip and its specifics. An agent then shows up that was supposed to get a girl for this excursion, but he tells Denham that with his reputation for danger, no one will do it.

 

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Denham then storms out, vowing to find a girl, “even if he has to marry one.” Denham is no dummy, so after he sees a bunch of women hanging around a homeless shelter, he swoops in for the chance. None of them cut the mustard for him, so he carries on. He happens upon a vendor selling fruit, and a girl tries to steal an apple, but the owner catches her. He tells her he’s going to call the police, but Denham intervenes, and pays for the fruit. He then takes the girl, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to a restaurant, and buys her a meal. He tells her that he’s making a movie and he wants her to be in it. With no other course of action (she’s apparently hit a string of bad luck and is homeless), she agrees to do it.

 

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The following morning, Denham and his crew load the ship, and get ready to head out. Driscoll and the Captain aren’t sure this wide-eyed girl is up for this trip. Driscoll scoffs at a “woman” being on board, but does let up after talking with Ann. Charlie the cook (Victor Wong), seems to be Ann’s only friend, even after six weeks on the seas. Eventually, the expedition reaches Skull Island. Denham found the island’s location from an ancient map, and also heard about many strange creatures that inhabit the location. As they sit closely to the shores, they can hear the ominous sounds of beating drums.

 

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They make the decision to take some men to investigate the island. They head deep into the jungle, and discover an indigenous tribe of warriors that is performing a ritual dance. After a few minutes of observing, Denham and his crew are discovered. The tribe seems peaceful enough at first, but then when they discover Ann, they get restless. The Captain knows some of the dialects from the area, and communicates as best he can. The chief of the tribe tells him that the girl they see chained up is the “bride of Kong.” In the end, Denham decides discretion is the better course, and they leave. The tribe inhabits a village surrounded by walls that are twenty-five feet high, at least. This puzzles the crew, and they wonder why they need walls that high.

 

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That night back on the ship, Ann is chilling out on the deck, but suddenly is kidnapped by some of the tribesmen from the island. The crew soon figure it out, and the chase is on. The tribesman have a huge advantage knowing the island and its many trappings, so they elude the crew for quite some time. Inside the village walls, the tribe begins to start up the ritual again, this time with Ann as the sacrifice! The tribesmen strap her to a couple of trees, then lock the gate to the village, then begin to bang a huge gong, as if ringing the dinner bell. Minutes later, a huge ape crashes through the jungle, and eyeballs the beauty.

 

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By the time Denham and his crew show up, Kong has already carried Ann off, to who knows where. They pursue, and almost immediately are attacked by a dinosaur! On the way to his man cave with Ann, Kong encounters an Allosaurus, and battles the creatures (at one point we see a single-leg take down and a also a judo throw!), eventually breaking its jaw. Kong plays with his kill like a toy for a minute afterward, then turns his attention back to Ann (who was tossed into a tree top). Along the way the crew fights a Brontosaurus, and Kong faces off with an Elasmosaurus and even a Pteranodon!

The crew eventually catches up to Kong, and manages to steal Ann away, then they head back to the village with Kong in-tow. A huge donnybrook breaks out back there between Kong, the villagers, and the crew. Kong is eventually subdued by gas bombs that Denham brought along for just such an occasion. He intends to take the behemoth back to NYC to display him to make some big bucks.

 

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Will Denham find out that nature cannot be controlled? Or will Kong become the first giant ape that people actually pay money to gawk at? Will Ann get kicked to the curb now that the adventure is over? Only a viewing of this classic will answer these soul-searing questions!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

If there is actually anyone out there that hasn’t seen this film, you need your head examined. A classic if there ever was one, this movie made Willis O’Brien a household name in the area of stop-motion animation (Kong and the other creatures were spectacular). This film had a huge influence on the man most noted for that part of filming, Ray Harryhausen.  The film also put Fay Wray (image below) on the map, although she had a bit of a career before this film hit. After it though, she was used extensively in horror and action/adventure films.

The influence of this film doesn’t stop on these shores, and is absolutely a direct influence for Godzilla, and all other giant monster films that followed. Speaking of what followed, Son of Kong is also an interesting film and deserves a viewing, as does Mighty Joe Young (more comedic moments, but still good).

You must certainly give this film a viewing every now and again. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it, because it entertains every time, and if you look closely, you can find something new every time as well. Armstrong plays a great showman, Wray a great damsel in distress, and Driscoll a fabulous hard-nosed sailor. The cast was key in this one, but without Willis O’Brien and his efforts, it would’ve all been for naught. The music score was spot on, and made the dramatic scenes feel even more real, and they help keep you on the edge of your seat!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

Dr Strange and Dr Doom: Triumph and Torment – OGN (1989)

I typically only talk about single issues of comics when I blog (sometimes two issues), but this OGN (original graphic novel) is one that gets very high praise from me, and as well it should. For those that don’t know, Victor Von Doom’s mother was a sorceress, and one day when she wanted revenge, she called out for help from an ancient evil. The evil that answered is named Mephisto. He then had control over her immortal soul, and one day, every year, Doom attempts to wrest control of his mother’s soul from this demonic entity. After quite a few failed attempts, he turned to the sorcerer supreme himself, Dr. Strange, for help. As with everything, though, not all is as it seems with Doom, and his plans for retrieving his mother’s soul from Limbo!

Undoubtedly, one of my favorite writers is Roger Stern. Whether it’s The Avengers work he did, his run on Doctor Strange (1974 series), or his incredible (but way too short) run on Captain America, he always delivered the goods! The artwork is something to marvel at as well. Mike Mignola (pencils) and Mark Badger (inks and colors) prove to be a very good team. Their rendition of Mephisto is spot on in this story. There is some extra material in the trade I have that fleshes out the characters in this story a bit, and those names are nothing short of iconic as well (Gerry Conway, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, P. Craig Russell, and more).

 

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