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 Savage Sword of Conan 59, 1980 “City of Skulls!”

The black and white magazines from the 1970s are treasures that should be on every comic book collectors list. The artwork is typically phenomenal, and the stories cool as well. One of the best of these without doubt is The Savage Sword of Conan! Each magazine is filled with stories from the barbarian and his adventures. Whether he faces a wizard, a monster, or an army, Conan will prevail!

The mags almost always have extras in them as well. In this particular issue, you’ll see a frontispiece by the terribly underrated Keith Pollard and a pin-up by Gene Day! Also, sandwiched between two tales of the Cimmerian, you get a story called “The Kozaks Ride” by Fred Blosser and some illustrations by “Marvel’s finest.” The other two stories were adapted by Roy Thomas!

The first tale, “The City of Skulls,” was a story written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. These two sci-fi writers have a ton of credits and were obviously huge fans of Robert E. Howard! The artwork is by Mike Vosburg and Alfredo Alcala. The second story, “Wolves Beyond the Border” was written by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp.The artwork in this story is by Ernie Chan.

Now, you may be wondering how these other names came to write stories starring everyone’s favorite barbarian. Well, the truth is, many stories were written by others after Howard’s death in 1936. They were either new material using the characters created by Howard or sometimes old material that had not been completed yet by Howard himself. Throw in an incredible painted cover by Clyde Caldwell, and you have a masterpiece of fiction brought to you by Marvel Comics!

 

A Steve Ditko tribute!

The giants are leaving us. There is no two ways about it, and a small part of me gets angry about that fact for a couple of reasons. First, because I didn’t get to meet most of them, and secondly because not enough attention is given to these brilliant creators until they pass away (except in the small community of hardcore comic book fans). A great bit of sadness fell over me when I hard of the passing of Steve Ditko.

Whether you believe it or not, the man created Spider-Man (with a bit of direction from Stan Lee), and all the classic villains that were a huge part of making the hero what he was in the comic books. He also created (co-created, depending on your opinion) my personal favorite character Dr. Strange. Not to mention The Creeper, Hawk and Dove, Speedball, The Question, Mr. A., and so on. To call him a genius is no overstatement, and just a glance at his creativity on paper is all the proof you’ll need. Monsters, Superheroes, Science fiction, horror, humor, etc., he did it all.

Why he left comics doesn’t matter, nor his personal beliefs. He was a kind man, that kept to himself and hurt no one. He gave us his imagination for a long time and we should all be grateful for that! Godspeed, Sturdy Steve!

 

 

 

 

Marvel Fanfare 20 and 21, 1985 “The Clash!”

For anyone that’s not aware, Marvel Fanfare is an incredibly awesome title. A sixty issue run that included a plethora of legendary creators, plus some up-and-comers as well. The stories varied from the macabre to straight up superhero tales, then sprinkle in some holiday themed narrative , and even the bizarre. There are certain names that in the comic book industry that are synonymous with the term bizarre (in a good way), and one of them for sure is Jim Starlin (story and pencils). In these two issues, he’s partnered with his oft time collaborator, Allen Milgrom (inks and some pencils/finishes).

The two-part story features Dr. Strange being accosted by his long time nemesis, Xandu! This powerful mage also has a multitude of minions in this story to help him carry out his devious doings. The good ol’ Doc reaches out to summon help in the form of the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing! The Doc is in a bad way, and only Ben Grimm and his power and bravery can help. The second part (issue 21), finds Dr. Strange trying to fight Xandu and referee a fight between The Thing and his long time antagonist The Hulk!

This story is one that features really cool artwork from Gemini (“Jim and I”, I being Al Milgrom,). All the characters look great, and these two creators work very well together. There are also some fantastic pin-ups in the back of issue twenty, most by Charles Vess, with a few by Carl Potts! Don’t sleep on this series, pick up the issues when possible!

 

Spectacular Spider-Man 56, 1981 “The Peril…and the Pumpkin?”

As the 1970s were in full swing, Marvel really started pumping out titles, reprints, magazines, etc. Their biggest seller by this point was undoubtedly Spider-Man! He was the company flagship, and midway through the decade, he had a spinoff title, called Spectacular Spider-Man. It was a solid title most of the time, and worth picking up. It would sometimes introduce young talent that would alter become huge in the industry. Case in point, the cover by Frank Miller (and inks by Bob Wiacek). By 1980, Spidey had multiple titles, reprints, a live action TV show under his belt, you name it.

This story revolves around the second appearance of Jack O’Lantern, and his rampage in NYC (stemming from his first appearance in Machine Man 19…believe it or not!). The interior art and story is literally a murderers row of talent. The story is by Roger Stern, who wrote some excellent Spidey stories in the 1980s (along with Captain America, Dr. Strange, The Avengers etc.). The layouts are by the former EIC himself, Jim Shooter! The finished art is by a comic book mainstay and a very underrated guy, Jim Mooney. Colors by Bob Sharen and George Roussos, letters by Janice Chiang, and edited by another giant of the industry, Denny O’Neil!

 

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 Alphonso,  Adolfo 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.

 

Marvel Treasury Edition 2, 1974 “The Fabulous Fantastic Four”

In the comic book hall of fame, there are a lot of great stories. Single issues, trades, whatever the format, dozens come across one’s mind immediately. Star-spanning adventures, tales of morality, love, tragedy, etc., take your pick. The format is one of the most underappreciated of all time, no doubt. One of the best examples of the different story types is none other than Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four! The familial aspect, love, loss, tragedy, comedy, etc., you get it all with them, especially under the creative eyes of Jack “King” Kirby and Stan “The Man” Lee!

After recently purchasing Marvel Treasury Edition 2, I finally read the epic story The Galactus Trilogy! This first encounter for Earth with a literal and figurative giant of the cosmos is so incredible, you will feel as if you’ve been through a war after reading it! And, not only do you get that incredible story, but also Dr. Doom, the Submariner, and The Impossible Man! With the back issues being extremely pricey, this is a great way to get to read these legendary stories and not break the bank! Finally, apologies for the low quality of the images (my scanner isn’t big enough to accommodate Treasury sized books). Enjoy!

 

 

 

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!