SGT Fury Annual 7, 1971 “Armageddon!”

On this Veterans Day, I thought it fitting for #WarComicsMonth I’d spotlight Marvel Comic’s greatest military man, Sgt. Fury! Yes, kids, before he was a super spy, and head of S.H.I.E.L.D., he was a bad man serving in the United States military! Now he’s portrayed as more of a thinker that’s reserved and doesn’t soil his hands in physical combat, but back in WWII, he could kick butt like no other (well, except maybe Captain America of course).

In this over-sized issue, we get two stories to sink our teeth into! The first, “Armageddon (from Sgt. Fury 29, 1966),” shows our man Fury, and his seemingly never-ending battle with his arch nemesis Baron Strucker! These two men have been all but equals over the years (with Fury almost always getting the upper hand of course), and the disdain for each other is at full capacity! Written by Roy Thomas, with art by Dick Ayers (pencils), and John Tartaglione (inks). Then, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos must face “The Incident in Italy!” This one must’ve been a fan favorite, as it’s been reprinted at least twice (originally published in Sgt. Fury 30, 1966)! The same creative team brought that one to life as the previous issue (and the cover to this issue as well!). Both tales were edited by Stan Lee and lettered by Sam Rosen!

 

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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).

 

Captain America 253, 1981 “The Ghosts of Greymoor Castle!”

Admittedly, Captain America probably isn’t the best comic book to spotlight in the month of October amidst the ghosts and goblins running amok, but this story (and a few others) is a bit of an exception. Set in northern England, Cap returns to a place that he and his old partner Bucky fought against the Germans many years ago in WWII. This little excursion is taking place on the heels of Cap having a hair-raising experience with his old foe, Baron Blood (Roger Stern and John Byrne). Now he must face an old castle full of memories, and ghoulish threats!

This one is written by Bill Mantlo (Incredible Hulk, ROM, The Micronauts), and he has a group of fans (including me) that just adore his work. ROM and The Hulk specifically are very good works of his to read, and they can usually be found at fair prices anywhere. The artwork features the always ready to produce, Gene Colan (pencils). Overall the book is pretty even but there were three inkers on this issue (late on the deadline?), so things do get noticeably different in spots. Dave Simons, Al Milgrom, and Frank Giacoia shared the duties. Letters by Jim Novak, colors by Bob Sharen, and edited by Jim Salicrup! The best is for last, as this marvelous, excellent cover is by none other than Marie Severin!

 

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.

 

The Tomb of Dracula 25, 1974 “Night of the Blood Stalker!”

After spotlighting generic vampires, Morbius multiple times, and Dracula in a special issue and magazines, I thought it was well past time to dive into Marvel’s best horror comic of the decade (and all time), The Tomb of Dracula! Most probably know this villain from either the Universal film (starring Bela Lugosi), or the Hammer Studio films (starring the insanely menacing Christopher Lee as the count). The character has been embedded in our culture for a very long time (thanks to Bram Stoker). By the time the 1970s rolled around, and the comics code was loosened, it was high time for this horror giant to get his own series! This issue is a favorite of mine, as it features the first appearance of vampire detective Hannibal King, and my favorite panel of the series of all time (final image at the bottom).

Marv Wolfman (writer) has gone on record saying he really had no interest in writing this book, but as fortune would have it, he did anyway (starting with issue #7). He and artist Gene Colan (pencils) would work very close together on this title, and for seventy issues, they knocked it out of the park. Another reason the book succeeded was inker Tom Palmer. Colan has very intricate pencils, and quite a few inkers have had a tough time not drowning the pencils out, but Palmer was perfect for the job. Palmer also colored quite a few issues as well (including this one), and again you get a quality and consistency from a tight-knit team working hand in hand. The letters were provided by John Costanza. A lot of the covers were provided by the comic book giant, Gil Kane (Palmer on inks here as well). Kane’s incredible covers carried Marvel through most of the decade, and it just adds to his enormous breadth of work.