Thor 229″Where Darkness Dwells, Dwell I!” and 230 “The Sky Above, The Pits Below!” 1974

There are certain quirky characters and areas of the comic book universe that I feel I might be the only fan of, either because they’re so odd or maybe just not well-known. The Fear Lords are one such group! Probably the most popular member of this group is definitely the Dr. Strange nemesis, Nightmare! Another heavyweight that’s a member is D’Spayre (see Fear Lords), and he had a memorable appearance in Marvel Team-Up (during the heralded Claremont/Byrne run), and a few others as well. All that said, in these two issues of Thor, we get to see another member of that group, in the form of the Dweller-in-Darkness!

In these two issues, we see Thor, and his good buddy Hercules! The two heroes are trying to unravel a mystery about why people in New York are going absolutely crazy, with seemingly no explanation. There is murder, robberies, suicide, muggings, etc., the city is in mass hysteria. Hercules tries to help, but is assaulted by a dark, mysterious figure wearing a trench coat. Before he knows what’s going on, he’s dragged into the sewers by a horde of demons! He returns to the surface later, but the son of Zeus is visibly shaken, and in fear for his life!

The creative forces behind these two issues are incredible but in two ways. The cover of the first issue is by Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito. Both men were awesome but vastly underappreciated. Do yourself a favor, and go to one of the many database websites and check out these two creators. Again with the same theme of being underappreciated, we have Rich Buckler (interior pencils on both issues, and cover pencils on #230). After his recent passing (May 2017), I really felt terrible because I’d only met him one time, and was sorry I didn’t talk to him more often, as he seemed like a great guy. The interior inkers are an interesting contrast. In #229, we have Chic Stone, whose style is a bit cartoony over Buckler’s pencils (see the splash/first page). Not bad, but definitely not the best either. The next issue sees Joe Sinnott inking (cover and interiors), and you can clearly see the detail and high level this man brought to the industry. The Bronze Age stalwart, Gerry Conway, is the writer for both issues. He had a pretty long run on the title (#193-238), following Stan Lee. Linda Lessmann, Stan Goldberg, and John Costanza round out the creative team.

 

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Ghost Rider 42, 1980 “The Lonesome Death of Johnny Blaze”

I’ve read a couple of good chunks of Ghost Rider (volume one), and a scant few issues of the other series throughout the years. Nothing resonates with me except the earlier stuff with Johnny Blaze. Why? I don’t know, but I can tell you that the earlier work not only dealt with the horror genre but also the biker gang phase of culture in the 1970’s as well. It may be the mystery that was so exhilarating, coupled with the horror angle, but whatever it was, it sticks with you. The very early work was tied in with Daimon Hellstrom (the Son of Satan), which also added a really cool vibe to the character. This issue (I showcased the previous one here) has Johnny still an amnesiac, and fawning over a girl named Gina. There usually was a girl who would pop up now and again, to try the romance angle, but most of them were flat compared to Roxanne Simpson.

The name Michael Fleisher (writer) isn’t one that is tossed around everyday. He had a pretty good run on this title ( as well as Conan, House of Mystery, and House of Secrets), but mostly fill-ins and such. Don Perlin (pencils and inks) is a man who I admire. Another name that’s usually lost among the titans, but one that everyone should know. Anyone that frequents my blog knows him name though! Diana Albers (letters) and Ben Sean (colors), round out the creative team. Not to be forgotten are the two Bob’s! Bob Budiansky (pencils) and Bob Wiacek (inks) gave us this cool cover!

 

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What If? #11, 1978 “The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become The FF?”

I’ll admit, I really don’t care for “What If?” and you can dislike me for it. They can be fun, oh yes, but it just isn’t what I’m looking for in a comic book. That said, when you get a chance to grab an issue like this one, you cannot possibly pass it up! Seeing Lee and Kirby as Reed and the Thing, is enormous fun, and throw in Sol Brodsky as the Human Torch, and “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg as the Invisible Girl, and the book has to be a good one!

To see the pencils of Jack “King” Kirby, is nothing short of fascinating, no matter what the subject-matter. As the writer, penciler, and editor, he really went all in with this book, and gave us something special. The inks were by Mike Royer, and if you’ve seen their collaboration on DC comics “The Demon,” you know what they can do together. The letters were by Bill Wray and colors by Carl Gafford. If you get the chance, grab a copy if for nothing other than the Kirby artwork, it’s astonishing!

 

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Dr. Strange Annual #1, 1976 “…and there will be worlds anew!”

There are many creators that made their mark in the Bronze Age, and some that ascended from an embryonic stage to stardom. Of course, these men and women didn’t realize it back in the day, but decades later, others like myself revel in their works, and hold them in high esteem for it! A title that most certainly gave opportunity for those willing to work on it was Dr. Strange! Think about it. Limitless worlds, characters, scenarios, etc., that was a springboard for the imaginations of its creators that had the wherewithal to use.

One of those above mentioned creators without a doubt, is P. Craig Russell (co-plotter, pencils, inks, colors)! This man’s work is nothing short of extraordinary to say the least. His run on Amazing Adventures is the stuff of legend. His inks over the pencils of Gil Kane (Marvel Fanfare) are noteworthy as well. As with many books of that era, Marv Wolfman (script and co-plot) lent his tremendous skills as a writer, and joined Russell in creating a gem. Letters by John Costanza, and a fantastic cover by none other than Dave Cockrum!

 

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Giant-Size Dr. Strange #1, 1975 “This Dream…This Doom!”

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!

 

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Thor #254, 1976 “The Answer at Last!” and #257, 1977 “Death, Thou Shalt Die!”

I decided to do a double-shot of Thor, and it’s no coincidence that both of these issues have work by none other than the king of comics, Jack Kirby! I love this era of Thor, and Len Wein and John Buscema (and Tony DeZuniga) have a lot to do with that fact. After posting some pic from the series “The Eternals” by Kirby, I felt compelled to spotlight some of his other work from the mid-1970’s (during his final stint at Marvel). Issue #254 is a straight reprint of Thor #159, (1968), and shows just how and why Thor became intertwined with Dr. Don Blake. The second issue (#257), is the last part of a story that showed Thor and the Warriors Three in conflict with the Atlas Age monster, Sporr! And not just for kicks, the very life of Lady Sif may be at stake! Great morality play in this issue, plus the action you get from this era!

The first issue of this double-shot gives us a great cover by “Riotus” Rich Buckler (pencils) and “Joltin” Joe Sinnott (inks)! The interiors of course, are by Jack “King” Kirby (pencils) and “Valiant” Vince Colletta (inks), with letters by “Swinging” Sammy Rosen and script by Stan “The Man” Lee. The second issue brings us an incredible cover by Kirby and Sinnott. This team has given us such wondrous work over the years, and this cover is one of them! The interiors are also very good, and we have “Big” John Buscema (pencils) and Tony DeZuniga (inks), to thank for that. Add in perennial colorist, Glynis Wein, to round out the art team. The writer of this awesome story, is none other than Len Wein! He’s had some great runs in comics, but for me, this one is the best!

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Daredevil #132, 1976 “No Matter What Happens—BULLSEYE Rules Supreme!”

This issue is one of the oldest issues of Daredevil that I own. It’s also the second appearance of Bullseye! The first appearance showed Bullseye giving old horn-head a butt whoopin’! But, in this issue, we see Matt get some revenge, and put this crazy villain in his place! At a circus, no less! Back then, Bullseye wasn’t quite as homicidal as he’s portrayed later on by Frank Miller, and other writers, but he certainly wanted to kill Daredevil! In this issue we see everything, from Bullseye riding an elephant (yes, seriously!), and then him shooting another man out of a canon at DD! Created by Marv Wolfman (writer) and Bob Brown (pencils), Bullseye brought something new to the table, and obviously he’s been a mainstay in the Marvel Universe ever since! Inks by Klaus Janson, colors by Michele Wolfman, and letters by Joe Rosen! Great cover as well, and we have Rich Buckler and Dan Adkins for that one! On Friday the 13th, is there anything more frightening than Bullseye riding an elephant? I think not! Enjoy!   Image (30) Image (33) Image (37) Image (34) Image (35) Image (36)

Marvel Two-in-One #19, 1976 “Claws of the Cougar”

My love for Marvel’s comic books of the 1970’s is legendary, and especially their anthology books. The top series being Marvel Two-in-One, but also Marvel Team-Up, is a close second. The latter was good, but the first offered more obscure stories and team-ups, and that is right up my alley. In this crazy story, we start the tale with some mild sexual tension, at least for Tigra, anyway. Ben Grimm doesn’t reciprocate the feelings, but that doesn’t stop her from hitting on him repeatedly. The two must fight together, and defeat a foe that admits he’s mad, and will stop at nothing to increase his power! Let’s start with the cover for once. Typically I give that person(s) credit at the end, but when Jack ‘King’ Kirby is involved, you must lead off with him! The work was inked by ‘Fearless’ Frank Giacoia (with alterations by John Romita), but the Kirby pencils still are very powerful. Not to be overshadowed, is the interior artwork by ‘Our Pal’ Sal Buscema (pencils), and ‘Dashing’ Don Heck (inks) are fantastic in their own right. The plot is from Tony ‘The Tiger’ Isabella, but the script was by ‘Boisterous’ Bill Mantlo! Letters provided by ‘Karefree’ Karen Mantlo, and colors by Petra Goldberg! Definitely give this series a shot, you won’t be disappointed!   Image (8) Image (9) Image (10) Image (11) Image (12) Image (13)

Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth #19 & 20, 1974

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OK, so I sort of lied. Those last two books weren’t the final books from DC in this era. I did remember that I picked up these two great issues of Kamandi, at New York Comic Con (2013). Any time you can get Jack Kirby for fifty cents, you’d be a fool not to grab it! The main character in this book is a dead ringer for Ikaris, of the Eternals, and that’s just another reason why I’ll buy this series whenever I happen upon an issue! Written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby (inked & lettered by D. Bruce Berry)!