Marvel Comics – The Son of Satan!

As I close in on finishing off a few different runs of comic book series, one in particular has me jazzed. Marvel’s attempt to popularize a character during the 1970s cult craze was successful as far as lasting power. Daimon Hellstrom has appeared as recently as 2016, and is still a name that carries weight. Definitely more of a fringe or “B” – lister, but he has been in solo books, team books, limited series, and so on. First appearing in the pages of Ghost Rider vol. 1, number one, he quickly transitioned to Marvel Spotlight, then his own solo title until its cancellation with issue number eight.

The fact that Marvel published a title/character with this name and origin back then is wild. Yeah, times they were a changing, as was the comic book code. Still, think about the 1970s and many groups (religious, political, etc.) would’ve been vehemently opposed to this material. Just on face value, it’s understandable, but when you actually read the material, you’ll find out that not only is the lead character a hero, but that good>evil every time. Yes, that can get a little one-note, but as the years go by, Daimon will make some decisions that are questionable, and feel the pain of loss as well. So you do get some variety for sure.

With creators such as Steve Gerber, Sal Buscema, Jim Mooney, Bill Mantlo, Sonny Trinidad, John Warner, Gil Kane, Russ Heath, Sal Trapani, Dave Hunt, Rich Buckler, P. Craig Russell, and so on, these books are nothing short of stellar! The stories varied from super-heroics, to battles with a myriad of demons and demi-gods, and even Satan himself! It is interesting to see how the different creative teams portrayed his demeanor, powers, and actions. Sometimes he was hot-headed, other times he would be cool, calm, and collected. Either way, he’s been a solid character throughout the years that has always been around and kicking up dust (definitely check out his run in The Defenders vol. 1 as well).

 

 

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The House of Mystery 224, 1974 “Sheer Fear!” 100 page Spectacular!

Do You Dare Enter the House of Mystery? Yes, I do! Sounds like a marriage proposal. This issue was one of those finds that would make any reader/collector get ecstatic. A good comic isn’t that difficult to find, but a great one that you can find at a bargain is getting more and more difficult as the years pass by.

Continuing a look at one of Dc comics’ best horror titles, this one is probably packed with the most talent of any book from that era. This exquisite horror anthology tells tales of a gym rat (Night Stalker in Slim City), a haunted house with an old hag (The House of Endless Years), a western werewolf (The Deadman’s Lucky Scarf), a boy sorcerer (The Reluctant Sorcerer), a magician that meets the Specter and the devil (Abraca-Doom), a problem with the mail (The One and Only Fully Guaranteed Super-Permanent 100%), a time travel tale with unintended consequences (The Gift that Wiped Out Time), a woman who has nightmares (Sheer Fear), A werewolf in Uncle Sam’s army (The Claws of Death), The Phantom Stranger has trouble with some elves (Mystery in Miniature), and finally a story that is picture perfect (Photo Finish).

The credits in this book are a murderers row of creators that are top-notch! Writing credits include- Dave Michelinie, Gerry Conway, Michael Fleisher, Howard Purcell, Denny O’Neil, Marv Wolfman, Sheldon Mayer, George Kashdan, John Broome, and Steve Skeates.

Artists include- Joe Orlando, Frank Robbins, Bill Draut, Alfredo Alcala, Howard Purcell, Berni Wrightson, Dick Dillin (w/Neal Adams inks), Mort Meskin (w/ George Roussos inks), Gerry Talaoc, Alex Niño, Frank Giacoia, and Mike Sekowsky.

 

 

 

 

The House of Mystery 227, 1974 “The Carriage Man!”

After being a Marvel Zombie for many moons, I really cranked up buying DC comics over the last few years. Focusing mostly on horror (and the absurd), the 100page issues are where the bargains live! These books are fantastic and are packed full of comic book goodness. With eight stories, this 100 page book brings it with the heat of a demon, or maybe the hair of the werewolf, or…well, you get it.

This issue has a great list of creators that includes- Michael Fleisher, Nestor Redondo, Joe Orlando, Sergio Aragonés, Don Glut, Joe Maneely, Paul Levitz, Alfredo Alcala, and more! Each story has it’s own unique flavor because of the myriad of creators in this one. It also contains one of the best clown stories ever (definitely not as good as “Night of the Laughing Clown” by Steve Gerber though)! Definitely seek out these 100page books, especially the horror titles!

 

 

 

Giant-Size Chillers 1, 1975

You know, Treasury Editions aside, there’s no better format than the Giant Size comic books of the 1970s. From Superheroes to horror, they were great, and really packed a wallop as far as content. Yeah a good portion of the time they were reprints, but in this day and age the original material  they show is extremely pricey and every-day Joes just can’t afford them. Probably the most important editions of this title were in The Avengers, where it was new material and tied into a huge arc (The Celestial Madonna).

Instead of making a joke about a character that was also given the Giant Size treatment, let us journey into this book, Giant-Size Chillers 1, from 1975. With only two reprinted stories it showcases some oddities, traditional stories, and some definite re-hashed work as well. With work from Tony Isabella, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, Carl Wessler, Alfredo Alcala, Larry Lieber, Miguel Ripoll Guadayol, Doug Moench, Win Mortimer, Ralph AlphonsoAdolfo Buylla, Paul Reinman, Dave Gibbons, Dick Ayers, Mike Lombo, George Roussos, Mike Esposito, and John Romita.

 

Marvel Spotlight – The Scarecrow (A.K.A. the Straw Man)!

After recently obtaining the last appearance that I needed of this character from the Bronze Age, I felt compelled to spotlight this crazy character. He’s definitely right up there with my other oddball favorites (The Tatterdemalion, The Orb, etc.). After a few years in dormancy, the character’s name was changed to avoid confusion with another Scarecrow, so he was then called The Straw Man in the late 1980s. No matter what you call him, he’s a ridiculous character that makes absolutely no sense, and that’s probably why I love him so much.

His first in a comic was in Dead of Night 11, 1975. A year later, he was in two more, but then took some time off for a while. He reappeared in Doctor Strange Sorcerer Supreme where he was relabeled. He wasn’t given much panel time in that series but by then the other Scarecrow was in full swing in the Marvel Universe. It seems there was only room for one. Ah well, we still have the few Bronze Age books to look back on with nostalgia.

 

Masters of Terror 1, 1975

The black and white magazines from the Bronze Age have so much great material in them! Even if you don’t like horror comics, you can get Conan, The Hulk, etc., but trust me, the horror books are outstanding. Most have excellent artwork, and solid stories as well. Speaking of storytelling, What if I told you (yes, that was in my Laurence Fishburne voice) that Marvel one produced a magazine with names like Robert Bloch (Psycho), Robert E. Howard (Conan), H.P. Lovecraft (The Call of Cthulhu), and Theodore Sturgeon (More than Human). Would you believe me? Well luckily you don’t have to take my word for it. In this issue of Masters of Terror, that incredible list of writers are coupled with top artist of that era, and the results is mind-numbing.

The artistic talent is a murderers row if there ever was one. Marie Severin and Frank Giacoia show us a monster (It! adapted by Roy Thomas) that definitely inspired The Heap, Man-Thing, and Swamp Thing! The second tale is brought to us by Frank Brunner (story adapted by Gardner Fox), and anyone that’s read this blog (or anything else I’ve written about him)knows how much praise I’ll heap on the artwork of Frank Brunner (his collaboration with Steve Englehart on Dr. Strange/Marvel Premiere is a masterpiece). The Lovecraft adaptation has Roy Thomas scripting, and a powerhouse team on art that includes Barry Smith, Dan Adkins, and John Verpoorten! The next adaptation is scripted by Ron Goulart, and the art team is the incredibly talented duo of Jim Starlin and Tom Palmer! Finally, Ron Goulart, Gil Kane, and Ralph Reese bring a story about Jack the Ripper!

All of these stories are reprints that appeared in other titles before. Even the cover is a reproduction by Gray Morrow (from a cover by Jim Steranko – Supernatural Thrillers 1, 1972).  Another lesser known story in this issue that was adapted (originally by August Derleth) is called The Drifting Snow. Tony Isabella and Esteban Maroto deliver an absolute gem with this story. You will love this story because it’s very suspenseful and creepy!

 

 

Spider-Man/Dr. Strange: The Way to Dusty Death

By the time the 1990s rolled around, Spider-Man was a household name for quite sometime, and Doctor Strange was also becoming a big part of the mainstream Marvel Universe. Some still consider him a fringe character, but after the 2016 film, that’s mostly changed. A team up with the likes of Spider-Man doesn’t hurt for some added exposure no doubt, but even though his name is in small letters on the cover, the Doc is front and center in this tale!

The story was co-plotted by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas (with Thomas scripting), and the artwork was a team effort with Michael Bair (pencils/inks), and Mark Texeira and Mark Beachum inking, Joe Rosen and Rick Parker lettering, and Bob Sharen colors. Bair has a huge list of credits but isn’t a household name. His work in this book is pretty good though. We all know that Conway and Thomas can plot/write a good story, and this one is no exception. No, it isn’t their finest hour, but it is a good yarn featuring the Doc and Spidey, the beautiful Melinda Morrison, and the psychotic mind of Xandu!

 

Dell Comics – Ghost Stories 9 (1965) and 19 (1967)

Looking into the past can be exhilarating, thrilling, but also frustrating. The comic book industry as a whole didn’t keep the best records in decades past, but the smaller publishers (everyone except DC, Marvel, and E.C.) were especially atrocious. Trying to find credits for the exquisite covers on Dell comic books title Ghost Stories is maddening. Even the interior work (writing/art) isn’t always available. That said, these comics had some very good material a lot of the artistic material from the mind of Frank McLaughlin (not the painted cover (9), but interior pencils and inks – he did create the cover to issue 19). The man has a pretty extensive list of credits, from Marvel, DC, Charlton, Dell, etc. He’s one of those guys that seems to be forgotten except for the hardcore fans from yester-year. He was a solid artist and that’s the way his work should be remembered. Most of the scripts were written by Carl Memling, another name that’s tough to find credits for across the web. Lastly, we have some inks by the controversial Vince Colletta. He has a ton of credits for inking, and that is where some people take issue with him, but I try to look at it as the guy was being paid to do a job, and with very little time to do it. So, looking at it that way, I can easily say I have no problem with his work.

 

 

EC Comics – The Vault of Horror 4 (1990, Gladstone)

To say that EC comics was the fore-bearer of just about everything in horror comics that came after them, would not be too hyperbolic.  Back in 1949/1950, Bill Gaines decided to take the company in a new direction. That direction was horror, crime, suspense, etc. All new material with an edge to it that had never been seen before in comics. EC blazed a trail that made it possible for any other publisher to push boundaries like never before seen in the industry. Not only that, the content was amazing. They just didn’t go for blood and guts with no substance, they had good stories, and excellent artwork by some of the greatest horror artist (and artists in general) of all time. “Ghastly” Graham Ingals, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Reed Crandall, Jack Kamen, Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, John Severin, Basil Wolverton, and more!

In this reprint, we see two issues chocked full of horror goodness. Vault of Horror 23, 1952, and Haunt of Fear 13, 1952. In both issues not only do you get the iconic horror hosts that helped make EC famous, but the pages are full of stories that will blow your mind when taken in the context of the year they were produced. Think about it, The Adventures of Superman, Ozzie and Harriet, and Roy Rogers were on television that year, so just imagine comic books featuring strong, mature content. It was a huge risk, but also ended up being a huge success and put EC comics into orbit.

 

Dracula Lives! 11, 1975 “Pit of Death!” and ” Lilith Unleashed!”

In trying to focus on more mags from the Bronze Age, I thought it was time Dracula made an appearance! The Count has a long history in Marvel Comics, and although the black and white mags are awesome, nothing compares to the Tomb of Dracula series that Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan worked on together. That said, don’t sell these stories short, because they have some fantastic creators on them! Speaking of which, inside the front cover, we see an incredible illustration by Bob Hall (first image after the cover)! It remains one of my all time favorite images of Dracula.

The meat of the book has some excellent work. The biggest part of the book is the adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel Dracula by Roy “The Boy” Thomas and Dick Giordano. It’s only one chapter but the pages are incredible. It was never finished in these format but both men finished it years later and it was reproduced in a trade/HC.

Another magnificent tale (part two) “Agents of Hell” is by Doug Moench and Tony DeZuniga. We see a young man trapped in the catacombs of a castle, and he must fight off the brides of Dracula, but even if he survives, can he defeat the greatest vampire that ever existed? That story is followed by “The Vampire of Mednegna.” This story shows a man named Arnold Paole, as he returns from a trip to Greece, but he has returned a very different man. Again, we get Doug Moench (writer) but the artwork was by Golden Age stalwart, Win Mortimer!

Finally we see a very graphic tale starring none other than Dracula’s daughter, Lilith! Within just a few short panels, she tears a rapist to pieces! This is a very different story though (not just blood and guts), and a must read because the author is none other than Steve “Baby” Gerber! The artwork is credited to three gentlemen that are names synonymous with the Bronze Age- Bob Brown, Frank Chiaramonte, and Pablo Marcos!

And let us not forget the cover that was painted by Steve Fabian!