Creepy Presents- Steve Ditko “Room with a View!”

In this, the last week of ‘Stevecember’, it is with great pleasure that I’m spotlighting another chapter from this beautiful archive of horror/fantasy stories by Steve Ditko. Last I looked, this awesome hardcover was still available on places like Amazon, so definitely look for it ASAP, as I’m sure it wont last long! Now, I present, “Room with a View.”

A man walks into a hotel on a rainy night. The clerk tells him there is no room, but the man notices one key still on its hook. The clerk tells him he was told to never give out that room key for some ominous reasons, but the man insists, and the clerk eventually relents. Once in the room, the man fires up a heater, but then glances toward the mirror. He jumps back in surprise, as he sees a frightening looking man behind him. As he turns around, the man is gone. He thinks to himself that the clerk’s story and the long day are getting to him, so decides to go to bed. His dreams become nightmares, though, and as he passes by the mirror, he sees a host of horrors, and he freaks out. He calls the front desk in a panic, but decides to play it cool and just asks for a wake up call. He heads back to bed, but the paranoia is getting to him. He creeps back over to the mirror, and he sees he’s surrounded by a crowd of monsters! Downstairs, the clerk hears a horrific scream coming from the room. He darts upstairs to investigate, but the room appears empty…until he looks in the mirror and sees the man dead, lying on the bed!

While I haven’t read everything Steve Ditko (art) and Archie Goodwin (writer) have done together, this one is probably my favorite. There’s a level of anxiety to the story that is perfect for this medium, but akin to what you’d get in a film or novella. The story reads like an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, and that is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

Creepy Presents Steve Ditko- “Black Magic”

After hearing about this hardcover on a podcast (The Longbox of Darkness), I made a note to seek it out before too long! It finally arrived a few short week’s ago, and I can’t be happier about the purchase. The only work I’d previously seen from Steve Ditko was 90% Marvel, and the rest from Charlton. All good material in its own right, but when you see the work by Ditko in this format (black and white anthology stories), you’ll come to appreciate his brilliance even more. Huge thanks to Dark Horse Comics for putting out this material!

The story begins in Europe during the Dark Ages. A sorcerer named Valdar is showing off his skills to the kings court. There is one soldier that doesn’t seem impressed, and Valdar conjures up a wraith that strangles the man, and shows him the error of his ways! He then leaves to summon his minion and descend to the catacombs and perform a spell, but before he can reach the tomb in which he seeks, he’s confrontred by his former master! They have a brief duel, but the former student scurries away and ultimately finds his prize! Script by Archie Goodwin, art by Steve Ditko!

Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that this story is very entertaining. It does bear a strong resemblance to the Doctor Strange stories you got from Ditko and Lee in Strange Tales, but it doesn’t really detract from the fun. The evil sorcerer is very similar to Baron Mordo, but other than that, it’s all good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dynamic Classics 1, 1978 “Starring Batman”

The more I read Bronze Age Batman, the more I look forward to the next time I buy and read another story! In this superb reprint issue, we see a Batman story (originally Detective Comics 395, 1970), and a back up featuring Manhunter (Paul Kirk). We also get this super creepy and cool cover by Dick Giordano!

In the first tale, Bruce Wayne has been invited to a party in Mexico, by a normally reclusive, but wealthy couple. He realizes something must be up, so he begins investigating immediately. He foils a murder attempt, and starts to piece things together. Before he can dig any deeper, he’s in fight for his life against armed thugs, then a pack of wolves! He eventually conquers those obstacles and comes face to face with the real masterminds, but as he’s about to put a stop to their plans, he’s rendered helpless by an unforeseen power they possess!

This story was a good one and really resonates with the other stories of Batman in the Bronze Age. It shows him first and foremost as a detective, then a superhero in a cape (or sometimes not at all). Moody, atmospheric, and a slight touch of horror all bring this story together. It’s not simplistic, but it’s certainly not overly complicated either. A good mix of both, to be honest. Writer, Denny O’Neil, art by Neal Adams (pencils) and Dick Giordano (inks), with letters by Ben Oda.

The second story is one I’m not familiar with, as it involves a character I’ve heard of but never read before in Manhunter (originally created by Jack Kirby in the Golden Age). This version of the character has two legendary creators behind him in Archie Goodwin (writer), and Walt Simonson (art)! Just quickly breezing through the story, it’s definitely something I’ll be looking into in the future! Definitely look for this book in the bargain bins, as that’s where I found it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Machine Man 2, 1978 “House of Nightmares”

When Jack “King” Kirby returned to Marvel in the mid-1970s, not only did he spend time on an old favorite, Captain America, but he also created some new characters that were absolutely mind-blowing. One at the top of the list has to be Machine Man. An android created by a scientist, that in turn was killed trying to remove the auto-destruct mechanism from him. Machine Man was introduced in the pages of 2001: A Space Odyssey (issue 8, 1977). This was another Kirby vehicle that was initially based on the film (Stanley Kubrick) and novel (by Arthur C. Clarke). Kirby eventually took the book in his own direction though, and brought more of his Bronze Age bombast with it.

Kirby eventually left Marvel in 1978/1979 (after issue nine of this series), but the title did go on for a few more issues with Steve Ditko on art. It was interesting, but not the all out craziness and cool of Kirby (some of that was definitely the writing, too).  But we did get this awesomeness from the King for those first nine issues, and how glorious they are to behold! Written, edited, and penciled (cover as well, with possible inks by Mike Esposito) by Jack Kirby, inks and letters by Mike Royer, and colored by Petra Goldberg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eerie 51, 1973 “Special Issue, Best Stories Ever!”

In this, the final installment of my  Warren Publishing Halloween spectacular, we get an all-out “best stories” issue! The issue brings some interesting stories for sure, but some similarities to comics/characters that would come later down the road from other publishers (I’m looking at you, Marvel). But when they say it’s a best of issue, they weren’t kidding. And, as a bonus, you get seven big stories in this issue rather than the usual six! All started off with a beautiful painted cover by Sanjulian!

The first story is one that shocked me quite a bit. Not really because of the content, but one of the characters has a strong resemblance to Gamora of the Guardians of the Galaxy. And just so it’s clear, this came out two years previous to Gamora’s first appearance. OK, back to the story. “A Stranger in Hell” is a mysterious one that shows a man that cannot remember his name, and is lured deeper into a realm that closely resembles Hades itself! Written by T. Casey Brennan, and art by Esteban Maroto!

The following story is entitled “Pity the Grave Digger!” It shows a gruesome tale of a graveyard full of vampires! And if that wasn’t enough, we also get something else insidious that will gnaw on you! Story by Buddy Saunders, and art by Auraleon.

The third selection is an absolutely terrifying yarn! “The Caterpillars,” is about a secret government lab, and something called Project X-3. Something rises from a grave, and later an autopsy reveals a worm was inside a skull, eating away at the victims brain! Written by Fred Ott, artwork by Luis Garcia!

Evil Spirits” gives us not only two iconic creators I’ll mention in a second, but first there’s a woman that has disturbing dreams. By the end of it, she’s swinging an axe, but at whom? Story by Archie Goodwin, art by EC legend, Johnny Craig!

In “Head Shop,” a man takes an interest in an odd dummy head. The head seems to change it’s facial expressions, and become almost psychotic! In fact, if the man keeps obsessing he might end up losing his head over it. Written by Don Glut, art by Jose Bea.

The next story is another treat because of the creative team. “Vision of Evil” is quite a yarn. This one shows us an artist that has a flare for the dramatic with his horrific paintings. There’s only one problem…they’re a bit too life-like! Written by Archie Goodwin, with art by Alex Toth!

Finally, “The Curse of Kali!” This tale involves British soldiers and a bizarre adventure in India. By stories’ end, most of the soldiers don’t make it out alive to tell the tale! Story by Archie Goodwin, with art by Angelo Torres!

This issue is a must have for any Warren mag, horror, or fan of Archie Goodwin and these fantastic artists!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spectacular Spider-Man 7 and 8, 1977 “Menace is the Man Called Morbius!”

Two enemies, that have seemingly forever been locked in combat. One, a science geek barely out of high school, that was endowed with spider-like powers due to the bite of a radioactive spider. The other is a scientist that was a victim of his own experiments, and through them turned into a vampire like creature that feeds on human blood. Spider-Man and Morbius. Both men with their own problems, and no solutions other than to do what they must. In these two issues, you get to see a fierce battle between these two, but also some interesting moments with MJ and Aunt May.

I’m not a big fan of the surprise “villain” or the deus ex machina in this one. That being said, I am a big fan of Archie Goodwin (writer/editor), and all the work he’s done over the decades. Whether it was his work for Warren Publishing, DC, or Marvel, he was always a reliable scripter. Next we have penciler Sal Buscema. Most people probably think of his run on Spectacular Spider-Man (with J.M. DeMatteis, and rightly so), but definitely seek out his work on The Defenders. His style fit that strange book perfectly. Inkers Jim Mooney (7), and Mike Esposito (8), are both a good fit for Sal’s pencils as neither takes away from them but adds their own touch. Letters on both issues were by John Costanza, and colors by Don Warfield (7) and Marie Severin (8), all add their usual talents to the books. The covers are both very good, as number seven has Dave Cockrum and Al Milgrom show the absolute ferocity of Morbius. The next issue has a young artist you should recognize in Paul Gulacy. He’s mostly heralded for his Master of Kung Fu work.

 

Devil Dinosaur #2, 1978 “Devil’s War!”

In the mid 1970’s, Marvel comics had a lot going good. The horror genre was pumping out books like crazy, the reprint era was in full swing, and the return of Jack Kirby cemented the company as the best in the business. The main man at Marvel for weird/wacky stories was undoubtedly Steve Gerber (and rightfully so, as no one can write those kind of great stories like he could), but Kirby gave him a run for his money during this era for sure! Anyway, is it even possible to not like a giant red T-Rex with a ape-like boy riding around on his back? Of course not! In this tale, Moonboy and DD run into a pack of humanoids that want to kill them, and if they don’t, the giant spider might!

Written, drawn, and edited by the king of comics, Jack Kirby! His contributions were already nothing short of legendary, but this era added some spice to the Kirby lore, and it will never be forgotten. A helping hand on inks was delivered by Mike Royer, colors by Petra Goldberg, and some editing assistance from Archie Goodwin!

 

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Black Goliath #5, 1976 “Survival!”

The 1970’s had such an eclectic selection of comic books, that looking back, you can’t deny the place it has in history. It’s understood that without the Golden Age, and Silver Age, things wouldn’t have turned out that way, but that fact doesn’t diminish the greatness of the Bronze Age! Take for instance, the title, Black Goliath. In only five issues, it gave us a superhero of color, and one that was definitely a strong character. If you look back, that was something in short supply. The scientist, Bill Foster, was an employee of Stark Industries, and later became the scientific partner of Hank Pym. In this, the final issue of the series, Foster must do battle with a giant alien savage named Mortag! And also protect two others with no superpowers!

The story is pretty good, and with someone like Chris Claremont writing, you kind of expect it after all he’s done. The artist is the terribly underrated Keith Pollard (a guy I’ve spotlighted before on my blog). He had a good run on the Fantastic Four, and Thor, and if you check out those issues, you’ll be impressed. The colorist is Bonnie Wilford, and the letterer, Irv Watanabe. The short-lived editor, but always reliable writer, Archie Goodwin rounds out the team! Oh, and let us not forget the action packed cover by the master, Gil Kane (pencils) and another Marvel stalwart of the era, Al Milgrom (inks)!

 

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Marvel Premiere #4, 1972 “The Spawn of Sligguth!”

Anyone that’s read any of my work knows I frequently salivate over certain creators, characters, and books. One of these things being Dr. Strange. Not just anything that the Doc has been in, but specifically his solo series from 1974, and his appearances in Marvel Premiere (1972). In issue #4, we see some material taken from the mind of Robert E. Howard (Conan, Kull, Red Sonja, etc.). In this adventure, the Doc has just survived a grave encounter with Nightmare, and now faces an even more vile thereat. An old friend has come calling about a problem in the New England area, and once there, Dr. Strange will meet his doom!

The creative team on this one is certainly top-notch. The story was written by “Amiable” Archie Goodwin, with the plot and editing by “Rascally” Roy Thomas. The pencils by none other than “Bashful” Barry Windsor-Smith, inks by “Far Out” Frank Brunner! Letters by John Costanza, and cover by BWS and Tom Palmer! Enjoy this classic tale from the past of Dr. Strange!

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Super-Villain Team-Up #8, 1976 “Escape!”

In my first ever purchase of this title, I’ve found that not only do I love it because of its hilarious action, but also that it has Dr. Doom, and who doesn’t love Doom? I mean, he’s the quintessential villain in the Marvel Universe. Everyone must face him at one time or another, even Squirrel Girl and Power Man had  bouts with him! Doom also had another run in a certain anthology style book from Marvel in the 1970’s, and I’ll get to that in a couple of posts or so.

For now though, marvel at the work of Steve Englehart, Keith Giffen, Owen McCarron, Irv Watanabe, and others! You’ll see the quality of work this team did, and it will leave you wanting more! Some brilliant colors in this one as well, and we have Phil Rache to thank for that. Don’t miss my favorite page, where Namor beats up an elephant! Enjoy!

 

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