Alright, so, Torch got his own series in the 1970’s…sort of…yes, it’s reprints, BUT the cover is brand new, and the reprints are good stuff! When you have villains as sinister as The Painter (Wilhelm Van Vile), and “Scar” Tobin, you know that your chances of survival are minimal! OK, maybe not, but these two evil-doers are definitely near the top of the cornball list, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s an awesome list.
When I look down at the credits box, and see Jack “King” Kirby (pencils), I understand that there will be a quality to this book that few others can even think of attaining. Frequent inker of the Silver Age (but also a good penciler and overall artist since the Golden Age) “Darlin”Dick Ayers, is a name most will remember from his inking in the early Marvel Age. He also did some great stuff in the military and western genres as well. The scripter, Robert Bernstein, is an enigma to me. I believe I’ve only heard his name once or twice before, and to my recollection, this is the only comic I own with his work in it. The cover is by one of my favorite unsung heroes of the Marvel Bronze Age, “Rampaging” Ron Wilson! A plot by Stan Lee and letters by Terry Szenics rounds out the creative team! Oh, and don’t miss the advert at the bottom!
On his birthday, I’d like to pay homage to Mr. Kubert! His pencils and inks were some of the finest to ever grace the pages of comics, and I for one am saddened by his passing (in 2012), but rejoice in the awesome legacy he left behind not only from his work, but also his school in Dover, New Jersey! Now, I give you some of the awesome covers (that I own) that the legendary Joe Kubert drew over the years! Enjoy!
All good things must come to an end…and so did the reign of a certain creator on this title! In this awesome story, we see Dormammu battling not only his nemesis Dr. Strange and then none other than Eternity! Dormammu laid a trap for Eternity and the Doc, but things fall apart rather quickly in this issue for the fiery-headed fiend! Before that though, we do see just how powerful Dormammu is, when he confronts Eternity, and manages to hold his own for a while!
The glorious artwork by “Sturdy” Steve Ditko in this, his last issue of Strange Tales, is absolutely marvelous. There are three full splash pages that are nothing short of brilliant, and Spider-Man aside, show his best work in a superhero book. Most know of Ditko’s abrupt departure from Marvel Comics, and how he’s the biggest recluse in comic book history (to my knowledge). I’d love for him to do just one interview to set some things straight, and not listen to all the pundits speculate about certain matters. Either way, he’s one of the best creators of the industry has ever seen, and should be lauded as such. The story is scripted by “Dandy” Denny O’Neil, colors by Stan Goldberg, and letters by Artie Simek!
The other story in the book (“When the Unliving Strike!”) features Nick Fury. The story by Stan Lee, and layouts by Jack “King” Kirby, pencils by “Dashing” Don Heck, inks by “Mirthful” Mick Demeo, and letters by Sam Rosen.
After recently purchasing this issue, I checked it out and knew I had to spotlight it for everyone to see! This story features a battle between Spidey and Mysterio! We now know that his forté is illusions, but back then, it wasn’t common knowledge. The story shows a miniature version of Spidey (six inches tall), having to fight his way through a fun house, all the while Mysterio is trying to kill him! There is some back matter as well. We see Joe Robertson having some issues with his son, and Gwen and her father, Captain Stacy. Great stuff, as the real world touches are what made Marvel tops!
For those that love to denounce Stan “The Man” Lee (writer), ponder this for a moment. While it seems as though he’s given himself too much credit in the actual creation of Marvel’s Silver Age explosion, I don’t think you can take away the consistency of his scripting, and his exuberance in the real “selling” of comic books. John “Ring-a-Ding” Romita (pencils) is one of the all-time greats of the industry. His romance work, inking, covers, and of course, his work on The Amazing Spider-Man are second to none. The inks (and finishes?) are by another familiar name from the Silver/Bronze Age in Jim “Madman” Mooney. Throw in good old Artie Simek (letters), and that rounds out this awesome team of creators!
For some, reprints are of no interest. But, for those without deep pockets or a life expectancy of 175, they are a welcomed addition to a collection. One example for sure, is the work on Strange Tales by Steve Ditko. Those issues are tough to find intact at a decent price. Thanks to Marvel’s Essentials, though, I solved that problem. After Ditko left the title (and Marvel), there was a cavalcade of creators thrown on the title. Not a lack of effort or good content, just not a lot of continuity throughout. The one and only annual for the series (the 1974 series), was a bunch of reprints from the era just after Ditko left the book. You do get some cool stories of the Doc fighting monsters, a mad scientist, and his killer robot!
The issues in this annual are mostly written by Jim Lawrence (script on all but the last), a man I know very little about, to be honest. After searching his name, I saw that he did some James Bond strips, and a few things for Marvel in the 1970’s. Not bad scripts, but not up to the standard set forth by the other headliners of the times. Dan Adkins (pencils, inks on one chapter, and plots) gave us some solid pencils, and inked one issue that George Tuska filled in for him as well. The last two stories were written by Denny O’Neil, and we all know about his writing chops (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Amazing Spider-Man, etc.)! As if all these names were not enough, you still get that awesome cover by none other than Gil Kane!
As time marches on, back issues from the Silver Age and even the Bronze Age are creeping up in price. The scarcity of these gems is becoming a fact, and it drives the prices up. This is why I choose to go the route of reprints (the majority of the time)! Yeah, sometimes the colors are muddled with or the covers are tweaked, but I can live with that, as long as I get to read these marvelous books. In this fantastic issue, we get not only get a Captain America story, but also Iron Man! Both are classics, and have great creative teams behind them.
Speaking of creative teams, is there anyone that drew Captain America better than Jack “King” Kirby (cover and interior pencils)? Others have done fine work (Byrne, Romita, etc.), but no one seemed to really capture the essence of the character quite like the king! And who better to ink this story than “Joltin'” Joe Sinnott! Written by Stan Lee, and lettered by Artie Simek. The second story, was written by “Amiable” Archie Goodwin, the pencils by Gene “The Dean” Colan, inks by Johnny Craig (yeah, that E.C. Comics legend!), and letters once again by “Adorable”Artie Simek!
As the Silver Age drew to a close, the X-Men went the way of the Do-Do bird. A few scatter-shot appearances (like a good one in Marvel Team-Up #4), and, reprints! The numbering continued from the original series with nothing but reprints for quite a few years before the Wein-Cockrum-Claremont team took over. One of those books was basically an Annual, or King Size Special, in this case. The Annual reprints two issues (#22 & #23), that are a two=parter featuring Count Nefaria! And Nefaria has recruited five villains to help him in his quest to destroy the X-Men!
Following the Lee/Kirby beginning, Roy Thomas (writer) took the reigns, and with a few different artists (until his collaboration with Neal Adams) kept the train rolling for a while. Artist Werner Roth (under the pseudonym Jay Gavin), started out penciling over Kirby layouts, then moved on to taking on the job himself. The incomparable Dick Ayers was the inker, and Sam Rosen on letters! A solid cover by Marie Severin (pencils) and John Romita (inks), put the finishing touches on the book! Some great action in this issue, and even a cool scene in the Danger Room!
I’ll be honest, Daredevil isn’t one of my favorite characters. I don’t dislike him, but he just doesn’t get me aroused. There are a couple of aspects about his life that I do like (his terrible love life, his relationship with Foggy), but overall, I find him slightly dull. There is always one reason to check out some DD though, and that’s because of Gene Colan. He was the first consistent artist on the book, lending his pencils to over 80 issues of that title (the 1964 original run). He penciled one of the most socially significant stories of the decade in Daredevil #47, “Brother Take My Hand.” In this reprint book we see issue #22 shown again. The story centers around three villains, the Tri-Man, The Gladiator, and The Masked Marauder! Now, granted these guys aren’t the cream of the crop in the villain category, but Colan makes them look very menacing!
At this point, DD was still in his infancy, so Stan Lee was writing the book (as he was contributing to most scripts back then (1966). Initially, the book had a couple of different legendary artist (Bill Everett, Wally Wood), but it wasn’t until Gene “The Dean” Colan took over on the book that it had the great consistency it lacked. The inks in this one were provided by two men that were absolute stalwarts in the Silver and Bronze Ages. “Fearless”Frank Giacoia and “Darlin'” Dick Ayers, were both excellent inkers that are legends in the industry. The colors were provided by Stan Goldberg, and letters by Sam Rosen.
With all due respect to Steve Ditko, I enjoy the Romita era of Spider-Man better. Not only for the artistic difference (even though this issue is penciled by someone else), but also for the stories. Yes, the rogues gallery Ditko created can never be outdone, but what was done with them after his departure was exceptional. What writers like Gerry Conway, and Len Wein did with them really cemented them in the Spider-Man mythos. In this story (originally presented in Amazing Spider-Man #73, 1965), Spidey and Captain Stacy are trying to figure out where the Shocker has hidden the tablet he stole in the previous arc. There’s only one problem, the Maggia also want to know where it is, and they’ve hired some new muscle to find it – Man-Mountain Marko!
This issue in particular was penciled by none other than “Big” John Buscema (over John “Ring-a-Ding”Romita layouts). Buscema didn’t do many pages of the wall-crawler, but when he did, it was incredible as his work always was back in the day. Inking is marvel perennial favorite, Jim “Madman” Mooney! This guy can ink, pencil, do interiors, covers, you name it! And all with a consistency and professionalism like the others in the Marvel bullpen! Let us not forget the letters by “Sleepy” Sam Rosen and story by “Smilin'” Stan Lee! One look at this cover (by Romita), and you know you’re back in the heyday of Marvel Comics!
If there’s one thing for me that rivals comic books (classic cinema and music, too, of course), its mythology. Whether its Greek, Roman, Nordic, whatever, it grabs me and pulls me into its world. I guess it’s the reason Thor and Hercules are two characters that have always been favorites of mine throughout the years. In this issue, we see Hercules, fighting against Typhon, for the freedom of his family and friends. Of course, his friends, the Avengers, will not let him face this challenge alone! The story originally appeared in The Avengers #50, 1968.
Roy Thomas is one of the best to ever write the Avengers, there’s no doubt! The pencils of ‘Big’ John Buscema are arguably the perfect way to present a mythological story in the pages of a comic book. He actually commented often about how he enjoyed drawing mythological characters and not superheroes. He’s honestly one of the best all-time no matter what he put in a panel, that cannot be argued. Letters by Sam Rosen, and a cover by Ernie Chan (a redrawn version of Buscema’s cover), really put this issue at the top of the heap!