Supernatural Thrillers 6, 1973 “The Headless Horseman Rides Again!”

Being one of the last couple issues I needed from this series, it was always higher in price than I was willing to pay. Well, for a while anyway. The condition isn’t the greatest, but it’s complete so that’s all that matters to me. The reason that this comic is being spotlighted is two fold. First, obviously it’s the “season” for such a comic to be read. Honestly, it’s always that season for me, but the rest of humanity is celebrating the Halloween season. Secondly, I made a trip to Sleepy Hollow, New York, last year. Quite a bit of fun, even though I was only there for a quick trip. OK, onto the book.

In this modernized version, we see no Ichabod Crane on horseback, but a cop that recently had a partner die under mysterious circumstances. He was investigating a certain criminal that plays rough, and Duke intends to find out what happened to his buddy. Was it the criminal or was it something even more sinister?

This adaptation (if you can call it one) is a lot of fun. The original story is great, and a straight adaptation would’ve been OK for me as well, but Gary Friedrich (writer) does a great job with this story. The story is very spooky and has a great twist ending. The artwork is awesome as well, and we have George Tuska and Jack Abel to thank for that. The full page splash of the Headless Horseman is nothing short of spectacular. The colors were a big part of the art as well, and Glynis Wein should be lauded for that job. Artie Simek does his usual rock solid job on lettering to complete the creative team behind this incredibly fun issue! Oh, and before I forget, the cool cover is by none other than Gil Kane and Ernie Chan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haunt of Horror 1, 1974 “His Own Kind”

In the year 2020, there have been reasons to be down. But, not only do I try to always look at the positives, it was easier to do that during some tough times because of horror magazines from the Bronze Age. I managed to track down and complete a few different series. One I didn’t complete yet (the last issue is crazy expensive) but did manage to get the first issue, was The Haunt of Horror. This magazine eventually became the home for Gabriel, Devil Hunter after this issue, but for now, lets dive into this inaugural issue! (cover by Bob Larkin)

After a stunning frontispiece by Alfredo Alcala, we get “The Rats!” This tale (by Gerry Conway, writer, and Ralph Reese, artist) follows a few short years after a certain film about rats debuted (Willard, 1971). The lead character also has a striking resemblance to Roy “the boy” Thomas! A fun little yarn for sure!

The following story is a prose piece with a splash page and one other illustration. “HeartStop,” by noted science fiction writer George Alec Effinger, is quite long for a comic magazine (21 pages!), and split into three parts. The tale is about murder and madness in a small Pennsylvania town. The illustrations are by none other than Walt Simonson!

Next up is a reprint from 1953. “The Last Man,” shows a murderous streak of a man named Joe. His murdering streak comes to an end, but not because of why you’d think! Art by Russ Heath (no credits given on script)!

“His Own Kind,” is another story adapted by a science fiction writer, Thomas M. Disch. This is a classic werewolf story that will not leave you wanting! Script by Roy Thomas, art by Val Mayerik (pencils)and Mike Esposito (inks).

A war story called “The Nightmare Patrol” is next. This is one that slightly mirrors the DC comics Weird War Tales, but not exactly. For 90% of the book, it’s just a straight up war story, but then things get crazy! Writer Gerry Conway, art by Ernie Chan!

Finally, we get “In the Shadows of the City!” This is one weird, bizarre story, but I expect nothing less from Steve Gerber (writer) and Vicente Alcazar (art)! A man is telling a psychologist about his compulsion to murder, and it might already have been carried out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 23, 1973 “Panic in the Night!”

In this second week of October fun, it will be my last week spotlighting the Phantom Stranger, sadly. No worries though, as I’m sure he’ll make more appearances down the road. This is my last issue from this run, though. but the other issues that feature a different creative team are still pretty good. The character is awesome but for me, these two creators took him to heights no one else had before or since. Alright, onto the story…

The setting is Paris, France, and the police find a prowler in a cathedral. He’s ringing the bells and laughing at his behavior at the same time. The villain looks like the Gentleman Ghost, but the police refer to him as Quasimodo. A plane lands at the airport, and the Phantom Stranger and Cassandra Craft exit the aircraft, and she tells the Stranger that her powers of perception are telling her this is the place of a disturbance. The Stranger then begins to question some locals about an organization that calls itself the Dark Circle. Later that very same night, a crowd is horrified to see the same ghostly figure from the cathedral sawing through the chain of a huge chandelier. If it falls, it will surely kill a few dozen people at the least. The Stranger jumps in at the last moment to save the day. But he still must contend with the Dark Circle, and they have abducted Cassandra! Awesome story by Len Wein in this issue. He really gets this character perfectly, and I feel it’s one of his best jobs in comics. Jim Aparo (interior and cover art) has done more than a serviceable job on many characters/books, but this one for me is right up there with his best (The Spectre, The Brave and the Bold). What a great team.

The back up story in this book is something to be celebrated as well. Marv Wolfman and Mike Kaluta (via Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) bring us “The Spawn of Frankenstein!” Two men digging in the Arctic find the remains of the Monster and are hell-bent on reanimating this abomination. A welcomed switch from Dr. 13. for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 21, 1972, “The Resurrection of Johnny Glory!”

October is finally here! As you can see, it might be a new month, but I’m going to continue to spotlight the Phantom Stranger! These issues by Wein and Aparo are right up there with any short run in comics for me. The stories are creepy and moody, and you also get a Twilight Zone vibe from them. This run needs to get more airtime, and I intend to give it to the masses. Both creators are nothing short of legends, and they deserve it.

The story starts out with a guy named Johnny, as he’s being led to the electric chair for his crimes (murder). The switch is thrown, and Johnny is toast. The onlookers flinch from the scene. Later at the morgue, two shady looking individuals show up with paperwork stating that the body of Johnny is now their property. They take the body to an underground cave, where the rest of their satanic buddies are hanging out. They perform a ritual and bring Johnny back to life! The head man tells Johnny he was resurrected to murder a saint! There’s a spiritual leader from a middle eastern country that is touring the area, and this group wants him dead! Written by Len Wein, with art by Jim Aparo!

As usual, we get a Dr. 13 backup story. “Woman of Stone” is the usual set up where he debunks something that appears to be magic/sorcery. Not a big fan of the character, but I do recognize good scripting by Len Wein and art by Tony DeZuniga.

The cover is super cool, but I do have a nitpick about it. It’s the exact same image from the first splash page inside the issue. And I mean exact, no variation whatsoever (except the background). So kudos to Aparo for the cover, but the fact that it’s reused for an interior page is not awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 19, 1972 “Return to the Tomb of the Ice Giants!”

Welcome, to week four of the Halloween siege! In this week’s post, I’ll be spotlighting one of my favorite characters from DC comics, The Phantom Stranger! This character has been a favorite of mine ever since I began diving into the supernatural universe of DC comics. I talked about a story starring him on a podcast for Halloween in 2019 (click here to listen in!), and that is probably my favorite story about this enigmatic entity! But now, on to this story!

Our tale begins with the Phantom Stranger giving a monologue to us about the follies of mankind. We then see two men searching for something in the Arctic Circle. They have some machinery working to pump oil out of the ice, but then the pressure decreases rapidly. When they check the line, they’re stunned to see a sword the size of a Cadillac cutting through the line! We see a giant hand reaching out for them, and then they are gone. Back at the main office, two more men talk about how many have gone missing up here and they aim to find out why. A man named Blake then takes a jeep out to the work site, but an earthquake opens up a hole in the ice, and it looks like he’s a goner. A hand reaches out to save him, and it is none other than the Phantom Stranger that comes to his aid. The man in charge still wants to proceed with pipeline, though, but the Phantom Stranger and Blake try to talk him out of it. His greed will not allow him to stop, and it might just be his undoing!

This morality play by Len Wein (writer) and Jim Aparo (art) is not only a good one, but still holds relevancy in 2020. It doesn’t feel like you’re being force-fed their opinion or nonsense either. The story works well in all phases and truly shows the ability of both creators to tell a good story. The dialogue and visuals are both on par with anything of its time.

There’s also a backup story about Dr. 13, by Steve Skeates (writer) and Tony DeZuniga (art). This one involves a man that is being haunted by a ghostly voice that sounds like his dead father!

A bonus feature of Mark Merlin, Sleuth of the Supernatural closes out the issue nicely. This reprint stars the talents of Arnold Drake (story), and the art team of Mort Meskin and George Roussos!

This incredible issue is kicked off by the talents of Neal Adams! The cover is spectacular!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journey Into Mystery 2, 1972 “Yours Truly…Jack the Ripper!”

September is here, and I couldn’t be happier for a multitude of reasons. First, the temps will be lower, and the colors in nature will turn brown, orange and yellow. Second, it’s getting closer to Halloween! Horror is my friend all year ’round, and a common interest with many of my online friends. The horror community has been nothing but inviting to me (just like the comic book community), and especially the classic horror fans. They’re a warm and welcoming lot, and great for conversation and critical thinking about films. This comic has a few different angles, all of which I’ll explain now!

We all know the story of Jack the Ripper, but this one is slightly different. The scene opens in Greenwich Village (not London), and John Carmody, Sir Guy Hollis, and a beat cop have discovered a young woman, who’s been murdered by “The Slasher.” The police are baffled as to who could be committing these murders, and it looks as though they aren’t going to stop any time soon. Sir Guy has an interesting theory, though. He believes this is the work of Jack the Ripper! Sir Guy believes that Jack is a practitioner of the dark arts, and that’s how he’s still alive today. Written by Ron Goulart(based on a story by Robert Bloch), art by Gil Kane and Ralph Reese, edited by Roy Thomas.

The second story in this issue, “More than Blood,” is about a school that keeps having its sports stars turning up with some affliction no doctor can figure out. In the middle of a sporting event, like a basketball game, for example, two premiere athletes drop over in a vegetative state. By the end of the story, though, we find out exactly why this is happening, and who’s responsible! Written by George Alec Effinger, with art by Billy Graham!

Lastly, we get a reprint, but it’s a good one! “The Girl Who Couldn’t Die!” In this mad scientist entry, we see Dr. Lee Fuller, as he’s living a great life. His career is doing well, and he has a beautiful girlfriend named Lisa. Unfortunately, Lisa died unexpectedly on the eve of their wedding. This was too much for Dr. Fuller, so he decided to exhume her corpse, and attempt to reanimate it! He eventually gets the result he’s looking for, but let’s just say that Lisa isn’t quite ready for the current situation. Art by Mort Lawrence (no writer credit given, possibly Stan Lee?). All kicked off with a great cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Rider 48, 1980 “Wind of the Undead!”

Searching through my boxes, I came upon my Ghost Rider books. This volume had quite a few different creative teams during its eighty-one issue run (volume 1), but there was always a consistency there for me. The quality of the writing and art never went into a direction that soured me on the title. A lot of title of this length start out like a ball of fire, but then fade away (some rather quickly). Whether it was Roger McKenzie, Jim Shooter, or Roger Stern, the stories were at least serviceable if not very good. Art-wise, you had Jack Sparling, Jim Starlin, and Jim Shooter, graced the pages, and with covers by the likes of Gil Kane! So, yeah, good creators!

In this specific issue, we see Johnny Blaze, tearing down a road in the desert. As he looks skyward, he notices five large bats swooping down in his direction. Just as they’re about to attack him, he transforms into the Ghost Rider! He is more than up to the challenge and fights them off. He eventually makes his way to a farmhouse close by, and gets taken in by a woman that is aware of the bat problem. We then see the bats return to their home. They live in a cave, but another fact about them is quite disturbing. You see, they have a master of sorts or a leader that command them, and this creep has his sights set on annihilating the Ghost Rider!

I’m not sure who would be on my side or not, but Michael Fleisher is the best writer for this character. He really gets Blaze and his fiery-headed alter-ego. The artist, Don Perlin is also the guy I immediately think of when I hear Ghost Rider. Perlin really portrays Blaze as tough but sympathetic as well. No nonsense with this art creative team! The colorist, Rob Carosella does a fine job on this issue as well as the letterer, Jim Novak! And this wild cover is by Bob Budiansky (pencils) and Bob McLeod (inks)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Tales 171, 1973 “March of the Dead!”

After recently acquiring a few of these issues, I felt compelled to write a blog post about them. Brother Voodoo, zombies, and my all time favorite artist isn’t a tough sell though. This is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe, and I honestly can’t think of a bad story he was involved in. A voodoo based character is right up my alley, and his frequent guest appearances with the likes of Dr. Strange are cool as well.

This story picks right up with the action, as Brother Voodoo is creeping around a cemetery and gets attacked by a horde of zombies! He kicks the crap out of a few of them, but they’re too high in number to fight off. Jericho then summons the spirit of his dead brother, Daniel, to possess one of them to help. It doesn’t work, as he can’t possess the dead apparently. By the time he gets back to Jericho, they’re both too weak to stop the oncoming blitz. As the zombies are overwhelming him, he looks up to see Baron Samedi, Lord of the Dead! (a dead zombie guy). And if that wasn’t enough, we get guest stars in the form of A.I.M.!

This title is very much an unsung classic from the Bronze Age. The creators behind it are some of the best from this era, and should be lauded for their efforts. Writer Len Wein does a great job of telling this horror story. Everyone that knows his name can attest to the quality you get from him every time he put pen to paper. The art team is just as stellar, as Gene Colan (pencils) and Frank Giacoia (inks) really set the horror tone. Excellent colors by Glynis Wein and letters by Gaspar Saladino! Oh, and let us not forget the awesome cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghostly Tales 109, 1974 “From the Haunted House”

The name Steve Ditko is known for his co-creations Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and rightly so, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find an entire separate world of work by this man. One of the biggest contributions he made, is his work for Charlton comics. In the past, I’d been dismissive of this company simply because their books don’t have the shine and attractiveness Marvel and DC had during this time period. Well, after finally giving them a try, I was astounded to find the awesome artwork of Pat Boyette, Tom Sutton, and Steve Ditko, to name a few.

In this issue, there are three stories that all have something to offer. The first, “Hocus Pocus,” shows a stage magician named Zarko, as he obtains an ancient book of spells and incantations that will make him the real deal! He finds out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be though! Written by Steve Morisi, art by Pete Morisi

The Man Who was Twins,” is the second story. This one is centered around a devious man that had a twin brother, but now he lives the lives of himself and the dead brother! He even marries his brother’s fiancee’! This scoundrel knows no limits! Written (possibly) by Joe Gill (unconfirmed), with art by Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia.

Lastly, we have the gem of the book. “The 3RD Victim” shows one of the most creepy things ever in horror comics or cinema – a ventriloquist dummy! The puppet maker gets killed by a greedy man, and at first, it seems as if the dummy is helping this murderer. But as the story moves along, it is the murderer who will pay for his crimes! Writer (again, unconfirmed) Joe Gill, art by Steve Ditko (cover art as well), and letters by Charlotte Jetter. The fantastic cover is also by Ditko, and is really something else!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Werewolf by Night 9, 1973 “Terror Beneath the Earth!”

Well, the day finally came. The day that I finally bought the first appearance of my favorite wacky Bronze Age villain! As some of you know, there was a podcast episode where my partner and I discussed our Top 5 Wacky Bronze Age Villains! If you haven’t listened to that one yet, please do, and I’ll only say that this guy is my number one, but I won’t reveal the others! The Tatterdemalion is  by far the craziest villain for me and he really is an oddity.

In this first appearance, he’s more of a sinister villain that’s on a mission for a “higher power.” The higher power is called Sarnak, and for some insidious reason, he wants the Werewolf! The first attempt to kidnap Jack doesn’t go well, but after a night in jail, Jack gets accosted a second time by the Tatterdemalion, and some other hellish goons!

This crazy tale was written by Gerry Conway, a guy more known for writing drama like “The Death of Gwen Stacy.” He can write any genre though, and this horror story is proof. The artwork is a huge part of why this one is awesome though, and we have Tom Sutton to thank for that (and the letters, and cover along with Frank Giacoia inking)! Some very vibrant colors by George Roussos, and editor Roy Thomas!