DC comics: The Sandman (Wesley Dodds)

Being a little green yet with my DC comics and their characters, I decided to grab this trade and single issue out of pure curiosity, but make no mistake, the names Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (definitely check out the Kirby Museum for a ton of facts, pages, and excellent insight to Kirby!) had a lot to do with the purchase as well! This incredible duo didn’t create the Sandman (Gardner Fox and Bert Christman did), but not long after a revamp by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris (Adventure Comics #69), Joe and Jack took over the reigns, and really created some fantastic adventures for this crazy character and his new sidekick (Sandy)!

The stories varied from heavy subjects like slavery and suicide, to the more usual tales of war and the mob! Mostly though, they had a strange vibe or a villain that was downright bizarre. People like NightShade (later known as Ramulus), Thor, and Noah…Barton, who has an Ark full of animals. No joke folks, it’s all right here in these pages. From Nazis to Santa Claus, anything you can think of Simon and Kirby already have, and more than likely before you or your parents were even born.

The second part of this post is to spotlight an issue of DC Comics Presents (#42, written by Mike Barr and artwork by Jose Delbo and Joe Giella), as it was the first time I’d ever read a story about the Sandman! Reading this cool story about where the character went after the Golden Age (a back up as the main story was one that featured Superman and the Unknown Soldier, which is just OK), really had me thinking about this character I’d heard of but never really knew anything about, other than he was created in the Golden Age, and was later (in name) drastically changed for a Vertigo title by Neil Gaiman (I’ve read absolutely none of those – not my thing). There was another story in JLA 113, 19974, that showed what happened to Sandy, and featured Dodds (I don’t own that one yet!).

Whether you’re a fan of Golden Age characters or haven’t really read much of them, definitely give the Sandman a try!

 

 

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Shock Suspense Stories 1, 1985 “EC Classics”

EC comics was no stranger to controversy. That said, putting a racist organization (not in name but visually) on the front cover of one of their books was wild. They were already under fire for their horror covers that featured decapitations, severed limbs, people being strangled to death, and even a maniac with an ice pick chasing kids through a graveyard! This cover was different though, as this wasn’t fantasy for many, but a sad and truly horrific reality. Without going into a social lecture, I think we can all just say that this book showed a very ugly side of our country’s past that should remain there.

The first story shows this “group of hooded men” as they have a woman bound and are going to torture her for consorting with “them” (black people). A grim tale of reality and not a happy ending, Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Wally Wood, and letters by Jim Wroten. The following story is about a soldier who is afraid of dying in combat. Nothing too crazy here but incredible artwork. Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), artwork by Jack Davis and Johnny Craig! Next, we get a sci-fi story where a certain member of a team doesn’t respect the plant life on an alien world…an regrets it. Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Wally Wood, and letters by Jim Wroten. A creepy orphanage and the man who runs it is the subject of “Halloween.” A gruesome ending in this one! Brought to us by Al Feldstein (writer, with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Ghastly Graham Ingels! Another story centered around racism and corruption tells the story of a black man wrongly accused of murder, then gunned down in cold blood! Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Wally Wood. “Stumped” is a wild story involving a trapper and his demise. Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Jack Davis. The old story Hansel and Gretel is the foundation of this tale, and two children end up headed for an old witch’s oven! Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), and art by Ghastly Graham Ingels. Finally, one of my favorite tropes is used, as an insane husband not only kills his wife, but then carves her up and puts her in a meat freezer (“Cold Cuts“). Lets just say later he gets a taste of some bad meat. Written by Al Feldstein (with plot assist by Bill Gaines), art by Jack Davis.

As time marches on, these EC books get more and more expensive, but the reprints can still be found at a reasonable price. Search them out at shows, or on the web, as they can bring you some of the best (if not the best) horror comics ever made. Both of the covers were done by none other than Wally Wood!

 

 

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.

 

 

Captain America – Top 5 Creative Teams

The character Captain America is not only the greatest superhero to ever don the red, white, and blue, but also the only hero from the Golden Age strictly born out of patriotism that survives today. That alone says something about the strength of the character, and in a small way about patriotism in general. That being said, Captain America has had some very thought-provoking story lines over the years, and a select few men have been responsible! Here are my choices for the five best of all time!

 

 

5. Joe Simon (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

There are two reasons I have these gentleman on this list (and where). First, I don’t believe you can have a list like this without the creators of the character. Not having read very much material from the Golden Age is why this team isn’t higher on the list. The fact that these men created one of the most iconic characters ever, but that they had him punching the ultimate personification of evil (Adolph Hitler) in the face is absolutely fantastic.

 

4. Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

In his second run with Cap, Kirby really cranked up the visual feasts. He took Cap to new heights that haven’t been reached again and probably never will be. The stories in this era (Silver Age in Tales of Suspense, and then his own title) had more intrigue and spy material than straight up war angles, and that fit perfectly with the Cold War going on at the time.

 

 

3. Roger Stern (writer) and John Byrne (artist)

If you sit back and think how great this run was and that it only encompassed nine issues, that alone tells you how great it truly was to read. Any creative team that can produce a serious story about Cap considering running for the presidency and you believe it, has to be near the top of any list. And just the creepy Baron Blood issues alone are incredibly good!

 

2. Ed Brubaker (writer) and Steve Epting (artist)

To say that Captain America (and a lot of the Marvel Universe) needed updating after the turn of the century is an understatement. The shot in the arm was delivered by this awesome team. And yes, this is a list of Cap creative teams, but this team bringing back Bucky, and turning him into Steve’s worst nightmare was pure genius. No one has come close to this level of writing since.

 

1. Steve Englehart (writer) and Sal Buscema (artist)

From issue #153-181 (with almost no interruptions), Steve and Sal gave the readers everything they could possibly want. The political intrigue, racial bigotry, disturbing truths about a government he trusted, etc. The best part though, was Cap’s friendship with the Falcon. He and Sam Wilson grew to be best of friends, and an awesome crime fighting team! The villains were a big part of this run as well- Dr. Faustus, the 1950s Cap and Bucky (click here for details), Red Skull, Yellow Claw, Serpent Squad, Baron Zemo, Moonstone, and more! All the while having guest stars like the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., Black Panther, Iron Man, you name it. This creative team pulled out all the stops (even Cap quitting!), and that is why they are number one!

 

 

Honorable mentions; first, to the team of Jack Kirby (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)! His return to Marvel in the mid-1970s ushered in some incredible trippy stories starring Cap, and even if the stories don’t grab you, the mind-numbing artwork will! Also, Stan Lee (writer) and Gene Colan (artist). Awesome run with more action than you can ever want, and a signature art style that is absolutely unique!

 

Black Magic 8, 1975 “My Dolly the Devil!”

Back in the 1950s (before the Wertham crusades), Jack Kirby and Joe Simon were still chugging along with their creative partnership, and were producing comic books in their own shop. One of the companies they produced comic books for was Prize Comics (Crestwood Publications). This was the launching pad for titles like “Young Romance” (the first ever romance comic book), “Fighting American” and “Black Magic!” Before the Comics Code Authority was established, you had the awesomeness of EC Comics, and shops like Simon and Kirby’s churning out great stuff that really set the bar for horror of the time.

The book contains four stories (5, if you count a one page prose tale), that are all pretty good! Graveyards, ghosts, sinister dolls, killer dwarves, you name it, this one has it (*note- this book is a reprint of Golden Age stories, that explains all the pre-code talk!)! Credits include- Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Jerry Grandenetti (cover), Bruno Premiani, Leonard Starr, and more! Enjoy!

 

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A Tribute to the late Joe Kubert!

On his birthday, I’d like to pay homage to Mr. Kubert! His pencils and inks were some of the finest to ever grace the pages of comics, and I for one am saddened by his passing (in 2012), but rejoice in the awesome legacy he left behind not only from his work, but also his school in Dover, New Jersey! Now, I give you some of the awesome covers (that I own) that the legendary Joe Kubert drew over the years! Enjoy!

 

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Strange Adventures 232, 1971 “Hollywood in Space!”

Every once and a while, you just grab a book on a whim, and soon realize you struck gold! This book is one of those times. If this cover doesn’t grab you with its stunning display of sci-fi action, or the proclamation of “Startling Stories of Super Science-Fiction,” then you’d better check your pulse! Seeing the twenty-five cent cover also was a dead giveaway that this book is from my favorite era, the Bronze Age. It sounds as if this book is a sure winner, but being a DC noob, and no creator credits on the cover (that I saw at first glance), it was a shot in the dark, personally. Little did I know that the five stories inside would be to my liking, and quite honestly, anyone that’s a fan of the genre.

This gorgeous cover was brought to you by the man, the myth, and the legend, Joe Kubert. This guy could draw a jungle scene one minute, a fantastical world from outer space the next, and then finish off with a gritty war comic, all before lunch. And oh yeah, it would blow your mind. I’ve just scratched the surface with his work, but I already know he’s one of the greatest men to ever pick up a pencil. The interior has work from some incredible creators from days gone by, like Mort Drucker, Sid Greene, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, and more! If you love sci-fi and action, this one will impress you, I guarantee it!

 

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Journey into Mystery 14, 1974 “When Wakes the Sphinx!”

Another post on the same day? Uh, yeah, because it’s Halloween (and there will be a few more, too!). Hopefully by the time this post hits the airwaves, I’ll be enjoying some great deals at WildPig Comics, in New Jersey. I’ll be looking to fill some gaps in my collection, especially in the Bronze Age era! For now, though, you’ll have to settle for this little gem! We get four stories, and each one brings a different thing to the table. The first is a tale about an alien invasion, but one with unexpected results…for the aliens that is! The second one is called “The Thing on the Moon,” and deals with a giant creature on the moon that was placed there by inhabitants of Earth. Thirdly, we see a foreign substance that can eat the flesh off of a man right down to the bone! The last story shows an attractive woman and the scores of men after her affections. She suckers one of them into giving her ten-thousand dollars, but after he sees her with another man, he’s plots his revenge!

The initial story is by Steve Ditko (art), and isn’t the best work he’s ever produced, but certainly better than most. He does a great job on the Sphinx in the story, though. The next one is by Don Heck (art), and he brings his usual talents to the table. The last two have artists who I’m not all that familiar with, in Doug Wildey and Harry Anderson. Both men do a solid job on their respective stories, and keep the book at an even pace as far as the artwork. All stories have scripts by Stan Lee. The cover, which is fantastic, is by none other than “Rampaging” Ron Wilson!

 

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Journey into Mystery 7, 1973 “The Scorpion Strikes!”

When I was a kid, I watched an episode of Jonny Quest, and it was super cool! There was a mad scientist that grew ordinary animals into behemoths! A crab, a spider, and a lizard, all grew to enormous size, and went crazy, killing on site. The lead story in this awesome book definitely has some similarities which makes me think the writers of that show were fans of comic books! A giant, mutated scorpion, a man who gets shrunken down to the size of a mouse (and subsequently terrorized by his own cat!), and an alien with a special chair! These three tales are perfect reading for the holiday or anytime!

The first two stories are just further proof that Jack “King” Kirby is a master of all genres. There’s nothing the man couldn’t do with a pencil. He did the penciling on the first two stories, with inks by Paul Reinman, and Dick Ayers, respectively (Ayers inked the cover over Kirby pencils as well). Both of those latter names were abundant during the Golden and Atom Ages (Silver Age as well), and rightly so, as they contributed heavily. The final story is by “Sturdy” Steve Ditko. His style fits perfectly for the story, and proves his mastery of weird, fantasy tales (plot/scripts credits to Stan Lee and possibly Larry Lieber as well)!

 

 

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Tomb of Darkness 22, 1976 “My Brother, This Monster!”

As Halloween is just around the corner, the hits just keep on coming! Another reprint of Atlas Era material is here, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Ghosts, ghouls, a robot, and just about anything else you can imagine! The first story is about a robot named “Grutan.”The scientist that creates him has a grudge against mankind, and wished to unleash his new robot to make them pay! The second tale involves twin brothers that are exact opposites in some ways, but ugly on the outside doesn’t always equal evil! The third story involves a ghastly figure, music, and a graveyard. The last story shows how a prison inmate makes a deal with the devil!

With all four stories credits going to Stan Lee, we are left to dive into the wonder of the artwork from some of the best of that time period. First up is Don Heck (pencils and inks on the first story). This guy was at marvel from the beginning with the rest of the giants, and somehow never gets mentioned with them. Study the man’s work, and I think you’ll find a fine craftsman. The name Mike Sekowsky might not be one of familiarity to Marvel zombies, but he was definitely someone who did a good bit of work for DC comics back in the day (credits as probable but not confirmed for the second and fourth stories). Lastly, we have Pete Morisi. He’s beat known for his work at Charlton, and was also a confidant of Don Heck! We get a great cover by the team of Mike Netzer and Pablo Marcos!

 

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