House of Mystery 155, 1965 “The Nightmare Express!”

Ridin’ that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better watch your speed,” The Grateful Dead famously said in a song. Maybe they were talking about the Nightmare Express? If so, drugs might be a good scapegoat for this one (just kidding). Anyway, there are three cool stories in this one and all of them are completely crazy. Translation- it’s an a awesome book!

The first story is about J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars! Now don’t get too excited, as he’s fighting the “Giant Genie of Gensu”…yeah. So that story isn’t the greatest, but it has really cool artwork with some hilarious shenanigans (Jack Schiff, writer, art by Sheldon Moldoff, letters by Ira Schnapp). Next up is a tale called “The Human Hurricane!” Mitch Anderson is a guinea pig for scientist and ends up becoming, you guessed it, a human hurricane (story by Jack Miller, art by Joe Certa, and letters by Stan Starkman). Lastly, we climb aboard “The Midnight Express!” But don’t expect to see John Hurt or Randy Quaid, as this one has Detective John Sutter, on his way home from work, and he gets a ride on a train that he’ll never forget. Or was it even real (written by Jack Miller, art by Bernard Baily, letters by Stan Starkman). This very groovy cover is by Jack Sparling!

 

 

Doctor Strange 43 and 44, 1980 “ShadowQueen!” and “Duel of Fire!”

As this volume of Dr. Strange rolled on, different creators were tasked with bringing a new vision to the title. From start to finish (the last few issues were a bit of a let down), this series is packed with creators that did good by the old Doc, and these issues are more proof of that fact.

In the final pages of issue 42, we saw the Doc get attacked from behind by a muscle-bound guy wielding an axe, plus a group of bad-looking dudes and a mysterious woman. Upon further review, this woman is Clea! She instructs the man to let Strange go, and then introduces him to the rebels on this world (Clea went after Wong, who got lost in a previous issue). Well, luck would have it they find Wong, and then it’s up to the rebels, and the Doc and his crew to stop the wicked witch of the…er, I mean, the sorceress Shialmar! In the second issue, we get some back story involving Wong’s family history. A nice little touch considering he didn’t get much exposure aside from being the Doc’s right hand man.

This particular run of Doctor Strange features some really good stories by Chris Claremont (writer). Of course he’s known mostly for his work on the X-Men, and rightly so, but if you’re a fan, don’t stop there because his work here (and Marvel Team-Up just to name one more) is very solid. When you add the incredible art team of Gene Colan (pencils) and Dan Green (inks), with colors by Ben Sean and Bob Sharen, and letters by Diana Albers and Jim Novak (respectively), you get great Bronze Age comics! And if that wasn’t groovy enough, the two covers are by Michael Golden!

 

 

Marvel Presents: Bloodstone!

There’s a lot of talk online about what is or should be coming next in the Marvel MCU. For me, one of those characters must be Ulysses Bloodstone! One specific angle was brought up in two different places (Twitter and Monster Kid Radio), about the failed Universal Studios attempt at revitalizing classic horror characters in relation to Marvel’s success in film and in their comic books from the Bronze Age (and beyond) with the same characters. Imagine if you will, a Marvel Studios film about Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s Monster. Now my take would be slightly different, as it would include not only the team of vampire hunters led by Quincy Harker (Blade, Frank Drake, Taj, and Rachel Van Helsing), but also the monster hunter himself, Bloodstone!

The character was very short-lived in comics, and has never made any appearances outside of comics either. Seems to be a missed opportunity, but who knows where things will go in the future for Marvel. One thing is for sure, if you check out these books and his black and white magazine appearances (Rampaging Hulk).

Anyone seeking out Marvel oddities, needs to grab these issues. With names like Gil Kane, Frank Giacoia, John Warner, Mike Vosburg, Bob McLeod, Pat Boyette, Rich Buckler, Sonny Trinidad, George Roussos, and more, you can’t go wrong!

 

Ghost Rider/Captain America: Fear, 1992

Well, this is it, day 31, and Halloween is here! So, the book I’ll be spotlighting is a good one, and a personal favorite for this time of year. A lot of people (especially my age and older) would say that the 1990s was a pretty dark time for comics, as far as the production value, strength of stories, and artwork. It’s hard to argue when you look back at all the mediocrity. One thing that’s for sure though, if you sift through all that, you can still find some excellent work from some very talented creators. Case in point, this book!

The story revolves around the character of the Scarecrow, and his latest psychotic episode. Up until now (1992 at this point), he’d been up and down after being in the Marvel Universe since the 1960s (ToS #51). Whether it’s the X-Men, Iron Man, or Ghost Rider, The Scarecrow won’t back down from anybody. We see him completely lose his mind in this story, and it takes everything the police, Ghost Rider, and Captain America have to stop his murderous rampage!

Howard Mackie (writer) is probably most known for his contributions to the Spider-Man books, and rightly so, as he spent a lot of time writing and editing those books. He really does a great job writing the dialogue, especially for the police and the insane Scarecrow. The artwork is by the always up to the task, Lee Weeks (pencils), and the legendary Al Williamson (inks). Weeks has been all over the industry with extensive work in Marvel and DC. Williamson (passed away in 2010), working since the 1950s, worked for many companies, and in every genre you can imagine. The man’s work is exceptional. The colorist was Gregory Wright, and the letters by Michael Heisler.

 

Weird Wonder Tales 6, 1974 “The Man Who Owned a Ghost?”

As the 1970s progressed, Marvel went full on crazy with the reprints. Some were of recent material (Spider-Man, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, etc.), and others were from as far back as the Atom Age (post Golden Age but pre-Silver Age). Flooding the market was nothing new for them, but it is still astonishing to look back on. Not that you can blame them, after all they were under the constraints of the publisher that was their rival for many years. Once they got out from under those shackles, they went hog-wild, and who could blame them.

The book is all reprints, but don’t discount it on that accord. The first story alone is worth its weight in gold, as Bill Everett is the mastermind behind “The Man Who Owned a Ghost!” Some artists have their work deteriorate as they age, but Everett’s work got stronger, just look! The second story, “Was He Just Seeing Things?,” has art by Manny Stallman, and this is a creator that I’m not very familiar with to be honest (here’s a link to Mark Evanier’s blog from 1997, talking a bit about him). Neat little sci-fi story including dinosaurs! “Homicide” follows and brings an axe murderer! Nothing here you didn’t already see from a publisher like EC comics, but still pretty jarring. The art in that one is by Harry Anderson. Again, a relative unknown today, but I found some info here. The last installment in the book is called “The Man in the Crazy Maze.” A treat for sure, as this has art by Jack Kirby (pencils) and Dick Ayers (inks)! It’s always a treat to see some Kirby! The cover is by Larry Lieber (probably pencils/layouts) and Mike Esposito (inks).

 

DC Limited Collectors’ Edition C-23, 1973 “The House of Mystery”

As October is finally winding down, one more over-sized book must get the royal treatment! And there is not a better place to walk into than The House of Mystery! Over the years that title has had many themes (pre-code horror, superheroes, then back to horror), but it really didn’t take off until 1968, when editor Joe Orlando took over the reigns (issue 174). Within just a few issues, we saw the first professional work of the most seminal horror artist of the Bronze Age, Bernie Wrightson (issue 179). Some would argue he’s the horror artist of all time, and there’s a good argument for it, but obviously that subjective, and could be talked about for decades (and probably will be).

Looking specifically at this book, we get a Nick Cardy cover, and his contributions to the comic book world cannot be in question. His decades-long  work for DC comics is nothing short of astounding. Inside we get a frontispiece by Jack Sparling, with the familiar host, Cain, telling us we are about to be in for a surprise! The first story, “The House of Gargoyles,” is scripted by Jack Oleck, with art by the aforementioned Sparling. Next, there is an incredible story called “The Secret of the Egyptian Cat.” Written by Robert Kanigher (long time DC scribe that wrote many war stories), and although he does a fine job, the artistic prowess of Bernie Wrightson is what really makes this one memorable.

The third story (“The Widow’s Walk“) is another good one, with Howard Post scripting, and the art team of Neal Adams and Joe Orlando! Very good story top to bottom! We are then treated to a two-page splash of Cain by Wrightson (black and white version), and the image is absolutely stunning. A better, more iconic image really doesn’t exist in comics. Another story (“His Name is… Kane“) with another hall of fame artist follows, as Gil Kane (pencils) and Wally Wood (inks) bless us with an art combination for the ages. The script is by Mike Friedrich, who worked for DC and Marvel during his career. As if all of this wasn’t enough, enter Alex Toth (art) with “The Devil’s Doorway.” Another script by Jack Oleck, and once again, no offense meant, but the artwork really lifts this one up quite high. Toth is a master that did everything his way, and should be lauded for it. Lastly, we get another gem from Neal Adams, Joe Orlando, and Robert Kanigher. “Nightmare” is the perfect way to finish off this extraordinary book! The book is also filled with funny pages by Sergio Aragonés, and even features a cut out, table top diorama on the back cover!

 

 

Adventure Comics 408, 1971 “The Face at the Window”

With only a few days left in October, I wanted to focus a bit more on DC comics, since they don’t get as much love sometimes around here! Checking out one of the only Supergirl centered comic books in my collection, this one is a ghost story, so that fits in perfectly for my spooky blog-a-thon in October!

In this crazy issue, Supergirl must investigate a haunted house (of sorts), and find out why the face of a little girl can be seen in the windows, when there isn’t supposed to be a little girl living there anymore. After the crew from the local TV station gets run off by a crazy old man with a shotgun, Supergirl takes matters into her own hands! There is a back up story as well, and “Invasion of the Mer-Men” is very Silver Age ridiculous but good for laughs.

None other than Mike Sekowsky is responsible for the cover, writing, and interior pencils (both stories)! Looking at his overall body of work, he didn’t write very much, so I’m not sure if he did these two out of expediency or what really went on. The interior inks are by Henry Scarpelli (a name unfamiliar to me) and it seems that he did a lot of Archie work. The cover inks are by the ever dependable Dick Giordano (long time DC artist and editor). Letters are by Gaspar Saladino.

 

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!

 

 

Marvel Super-Heroes 81, 1979 “Again, The Glob!”

As October swings into its final week, some of the old school monsters need to get their due. One of those monsters is a nemesis of the Hulk. Of course, the Hulk is a monster of sorts in his own right, but most don’t consider him one because of the human counterpart, Bruce Banner, or maybe because he’s had periods of time where he was split from being both man and monster. Either way, he’s had plenty of opponents from the realm of monster-dom! One of the best (if not the best), is The Glob! This monster is one that gets lost in the mix, but definitely take a closer look at this behemoth of the bog! And yes, this monster does predate Man-Thing, and Swamp Thing, by a few years! Also, keep an eye out for a special appearance by the Leader!

The character was created by the same team as this book. Roy Thomas (writer) freely admits ripping off The Heap with his creation (The Glob). No shame in admitting that, as most would deny it until their last moments. Oh and its been done numerous times, so there’s really no need to get all riled up about it, especially when the creator admits to it. The art on this one is by probably the most iconic Hulk artist of all time, Herb Trimpe! He had an iconic run with this character (maybe only second to Sal Buscema), and is remembered fondly for it. Trimpe also did the cover art, and the letters are by Sam Rosen. (This story originally appeared in Hulk #129)

 

 

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!