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!

 

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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!

 

Iron Man Annual 4, 1977 “The Caverns of Doomsday!”

I love kooky villains (as should we all!). One near the top for sure is M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing). This character is nothing short of brilliant, and not just because the visual is so unique. His power set, origin, and yes, his look make him an incredibly cool villain. He’s barely used it seems and when he is, it’s usually not to his full potential.

In this issue, we see old Shell-head trying to track down MODOK but not having much success. He then enlists the help of The Champions!  Can they find MODOK and A.I.M., or will time run out for them and the world! Sea monsters, men in Beekeeper outfits, a muscle-bound Friar, and a giant headed, telepathic villain complete with lasers and rockets. Next time you’re diving into the back issue bins, seek this one out! Written by Bill Mantlo, art by George Tuska and Don Perlin, colors by Phil Rachelson, John Costanza on letters, and Archie Goodwin editing!

 

Ghost Rider 16, 1976 “Blood in the Waters”

The Bronze Age was an age of growing up for some preexisting characters, and the introduction of some new ones that were not only part of the zeitgeist  of the times, but ones that would last a very long time afterward. One of these characters is the Ghost Rider! Opinions vary on who created what exactly, but we know that Mike Ploog, Gary Friedrich, and Roy Thomas were involved. Over the decades, there have been a few different people to carry the mantle of the Ghost Rider, but honestly, none are better than the original, Johnny Blaze.

In this issue, we see Blaze and his alter-ego battle dolphin killers…and a great white shark! Yes, shortly after the frenzy that was Jaws (summer of 1975), Bill Mantlo (writer), George Tuska (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Janice Cohen (colors), and Karen Mantlo (letters), gave us the awesomeness of Ghost Rider fighting Jaws (edited by Marv Wolfman, cover by Bob Brown and Dave Cockrum)!

 

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Marvel Two-in-One 24, 1977 “Does Anyone Remember…The Hijacker!?”

While I don’t “remember the Hijacker,” I do know an awesome villain when I see one! Brought to life during the great, but short-lived series “Black Goliath,” This little known villain is so generic he’s awesome! Marvel’s sister titles, Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One, were both exquisite in their own strange way. Both offered characters that even casual fans would recognize, but once in a while, they’d throw a curveball at you, and have a villain (or even sometimes someone/thing from pop culture) that was completely off the wall. This is one of those times of awesomeness.

The name Bill Mantlo (writer, with an assist from Jim Shooter), is one that I hold is high esteem. Many times I’ve picked up a comic book and after reading it, was not shocked to find out it was from the mind of this gentleman. The art team is composed of two masters. Sal Buscema (pencils) and Pablo Marcos (inks), are two staples from the Bronze Age that really resonate with fans of that era and beyond. Irv Watanabe (letters) and George Roussos (colors), are also a couple of names synonymous with that period, as is editor, Archie Goodwin!

 

 

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Spectacular Spider-Man 38, 1979 “Curse of the Living Vampire!”

I love vampires! From the first time I saw Bela Lugosi, and most certainly once I saw Sir Christopher Lee as the fearful Count Dracula, I was hooked. The first vampire I saw in a comic book though, was Morbius! His origin story was foreign to me, but it didn’t matter. He was scary, and more than a match for Spidey. In this issue, Morbius and Spidey clash at a costume party, and we also see the vampire attack a group of kids! His blood lust knows no boundaries, and he will not stop until it is satiated!

The creative team on this book is comprised of some of my favorites! Bill Mantlo (writer), is one of the most underrated writers of all time. He gets a nod for ROM from hardcore fans, but not much else. That needs to change, because when you look at his work as a whole, you can get more of a grasp on his wonderful contributions over the years. Not to be outdone, is the art team of Sal Buscema (pencils) and Chic Stone (inks). Both men are very skilled and were absolute pillars in the comic book industry for a long time. Bob Sharen is another name that everyone who’s a fan of the Bronze Age should recognize. He has a huge list of color credits, and his work always solidified the art. Veteran letter Diana Albers, and editor Jim Shooter round out the team! And let us not pass over this awesome cover by Mister Al Milgrom!

 

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The Incredible Hulk #300, 1984 “Days of Rage!”

The Hulk has had his ups and downs, as far as sales, and even in the overall quality of the work on the character over the years.  He’s an interesting character with the dual-identity, that gives authors many different angles with which to attack a story. In this anniversary issue, we see nothing but the monster, as Nightmare has forced Bruce Banner away, and nothing remains but the mindless beast! We all know that The Hulk is a bad mutha, and he gets tested by SHIELD, Power Man and Iron Fist, and even The Avengers! Thor manages to battle him to a standstill, but even he can’t put him away. The planet’s last hope is the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange!

The visual feast that this issue is, was brought to us by “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils) and Gerry Talaoc (inker). Add on the colors by Bob Sharen, and you will read this book and think…”wow, they don’t make them like this anymore!” Seeing all these heroes battling an enraged monster is quite a delight. The the writer, Bill Mantlo, certainly needs no intro. His work is nothing short of legendary! Last but not least, we have Jim Novak on letters! (Cover by Brett Blevins!)

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ROM #37, 1982 “In Days of Olde, When Knights Were Bolde!”

One of the most underrated books of the 1980’s, is certainly ROM! The title was created from a deal between Marvel Comics and Parker Brothers, in 1979. It was just a toy, but was elevated to cult status in the comic book industry. Why? Because of stories like this one. Fuse together ROM and Arthurian Myth, and you have one new, hot commodity, and another that is steeped in centuries worth of mystery and folklore. The tagline of the issue is…”A Tale of Magic and Mysticism in the Mighty Marvel Manner!” This is no understatement, and you also get the great action scenes of ROM wasting some Dire Wraiths, as well!

Not nearly enough credit is ever given to Bill Mantlo (writer). The guy wrote the entire series (all 75 issues), the Micronauts (another toy turned comic book title, and he had many runs on different titles, like Spectacular Spider-Man, Strange Tales (1987), Marvel Team-Up, and more! He is without a doubt the most under-appreciated guy from this era. This title was also fortunate enough to typically have the talents of the great pencils of Sal Buscema, and along with Ian Akin and  Brian Garvey, the art was great! The letters were by Jim Novak, colors by Ben Sean (two more staples from this era), and the editor was Ann Nocenti. Great cover as well, and the duo of Ed Hannigan and Al Milgrom knocked this one out of the park!

 

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Spectacular Spider-Man #85, 1983 “The Hatred of the Hobgoblin!”

I don’t have very many issues of Spidey stories from the 1980’s for some reason. Just a few scant issues, but issues that have a very good story and creative team behind them. In this story, we see the “birth” of the Hobgoblin! Roger Stern was the architect of this character, and he really turned up the drama and mystery during his run on the book. Some consider his run right up there with the all time greats, and after reading some of it, and listening to a podcast about Spidey in the 1980’s, I’d have to agree. The underworld/crime stories, and the presence of the mysterious Hobgoblin (we/Peter didn’t know who he really was for a few years!), really make this a memorable time for the old web-head! This issue also has a softer side, as Harry and Liz announce that they’re expecting their first child (little Normie)!

The story was written by the often overlooked Bill Mantlo (some plot credit to Stern?). If you look at this man’s credits, he was one of the builders that helped keep Marvel going for a decade. Between ROM, The Micronauts, and all the short runs and fill-ins he did, you’ve got to respect his place in the industry’s history. The artwork was by the team of Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney, and both of those men are also a big part of the Bronze Age (and Copper Age) of comics. With the colors by Bob Sharen and letters by Diana Albers, the team is in place. Get ready for action, and love (with The Black Cat) for Peter Parker!

 

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The Incredible Hulk #304, 1985 “Prisoners!”

The Incredible Hulk is a character that I’ve always loved but more in the group setting, like The Defenders! But I do own a few issues where the Hulk is the main character, like this one! The Hulk fighting aliens is a great concept just on the limitless possibilities alone. Throw in the Hulk’s melancholy, and you’ve got a recipe for something great! The 1980’s brought a lot more Hulk than Banner, and for some, that was a nice change of course. The Banner identity does bring a good dose of reality though, and sometimes the stories without him are slightly lacking in that department. The Hulk actually shows us that he does have a softer, more sympathetic side as well in this issue.

Written by none other than Bill Mantlo (ROM, The Micronauts), penciled by Sal Buscema (The Defenders, Spectacular Spider-Man), inks by Gerry Talaoc, letters by Ken Bruzenak, colors by Bob Sharen, and edited by Carl Potts! Check out this wacky sci-fi story that also features a cover by Mike Mignola and Kevin Nowlan! Enjoy!

 

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