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.

 

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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!

 

 

 

Ghost Rider 8, 1974 “The Devil’s Disciple!”

Back in the Bronze Age, the Ghost Rider was packed full of devilish ideas, and it was certainly a sign of the times. Many books featured cults, devils, and all sorts of satanic shenanigans. From the beginning of Ghost Rider’s days in comics, he was wrapped in these themes, and for the most part still is now. There have been different iterations but in the end, the character can’t get away from that aspect of his origin.

This particular issue features not only the flame-headed, motorcycle riding man/ghost himself, Johnny Blaze, but a new villain named Inferno, and the coup de grâce, Satan himself! For a very long time there was an unwritten rule at Marvel that God and Satan (post Comics Code Authority) were off-limits to comic books. On a few different occasions, Marvel tried to explain away any appearances by Satan, in saying it wasn’t really “Satan” but some other lesser demon masquerading as the infernal devil. Why they felt the need to back-peddle or avoid the situation totally, I can’t be certain (because nothing makes sense since we’re talking about fictitious characters in comic books, but again, probably the Code), but certainly in years to come things would change. There is a story that the writer (Tony Isabella) tells about how he wanted to eventually name a character he created in this series as being God/Jesus, but an editor changed the story before it was printed. Not the first time we’ve heard of this going on, and I’m sure not the last.

The story was written by Tony Isabella, who went on to create characters like Black Goliath, and Black Lightning (for DC comics). The art team consisted of Jim Mooney (pencils), and Sal Trapani (inks), both of whom were seasoned artists by this time period. Since the Golden Age, Mooney and Trapani worked steadily in comics. Mooney most notably for DC comics on Supergirl, and Trapani for his inking during this very time period (plus his work for Dell comics earlier). Phil Rachelson was the colorist, and John Costanza the letterer. Again , two names most know from their consistent work in this time period. The book was edited by Roy Thomas. The magnificent cover is by the legendary Gil Kane (pencils) and (long time inker/artist) Dan Adkins!

 

 

ROM 33, 1982 “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!”

Some titles never seem to get their due in the mainstream for one reason or another. ROM (Spaceknight) is one of those titles for sure. ROM is a man from another planet that volunteered to become a cyborg (along with others) to fend off an alien attack by the Dire Wraiths. The battle spilled over into other parts of the galaxy, including Earth.

In this issue, ROM is buzzing around the skies, and a young, blind woman can see him in her mind (clairvoyant?) She wonders if he might be able to help her find her parents that supposedly abandoned her years ago. We also see ROM’s old friends, Steve Jackson and Brandy Clark. They notice ROM whipping around the city, and speak of his awesomeness. ROM then gets some readings from his Analyzer, then swoops in to Cliff House, where the blind woman resides. He informs her that she’s among killers, and then the creepiness jumps into overdrive.

As most comic book fans know, this series was written entirely by Bill Mantlo. He basically took a toy (yes, ROM was a toy with no background, whatsoever), and created a universe for this character. Not even speaking about co-creating Rocket Raccoon (along with Keith Giffen), and Cloak and Dagger (along with Ed Hannigan), the man is a legend for this (and The Micronauts). The artwork is by long time Marvel artists, Sal Buscema (pencils), and Joe Sinnott (inks). Both men have long, stories careers that are the definition of professional. Ben Sean is the colorist, Rick Parker on letters, and Ann Nocenti editor! And lets us not forget the eerie cover by Al Milgrom!

 

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.