I’ll freely admit that I love origin stories. I see people on social media decry films and comics that recount them, but I just can’t help myself. One of my favorite origin stories, is that of Professor Xavier (and the X-Men). Of course, Spider-Man is the one that gets retold a lot, but I can’t recall this one being retold many times. Honestly though, does anyone not get pumped when they see names like Chris Claremont (writer), John Byrne (pencils), and Terry Austin (inks)?
This reprint book gives us a tale from the youth of Professor Charles Xavier. But first, he’s talking with Lilandra in his office. You see, the X-Men are missing and presumed dead (after an altercation in the Savage Land). He then begins to think that maybe he should never have recruited them for his cause. His mind drifts back to a trip he made to Cairo years ago. As he was walking through the city, a girl (a young Ororo Monroe, A.K.A. Storm!) stole his wallet. He chased the girl down, and retrieved his wallet, but was struck down by a mental attack. He then makes his way inside a cafe to meet the person responsible. He then comes face to face with Amahl Farouk. He is a mutant, and a very powerful telepath, just like Xavier. The difference is that he’s evil, and uses his powers for personal gain. After a quick introduction, they meet on the Astral Plane for combat. The battle is fierce, but eventually, Xavier proves to be the superior combatant!
This story isn’t one filled with action, but it does show you not only the origin of Xavier but his first encounter with another mutant. Seeing Xavier in this different light (pre-X-Men) is quite a thrill and I can only imagine how much bigger of one it was for readers back in 1979. There’s also a back up story by Claremont and John Bolton. A neat little story involving Nightcrawler! And to top it all off, we get a cover (and pinup) by Art Adams! The original cover is by Dave Cockrum (X-Men 117, the last image).
It has been too long since the Man-Thing was spotlighted on this blog! Not to mention the awesome title Marvel Team-Up and Spidey! Of course the overwhelming majority of issues featured the web-slinger (some had the Human Torch), and he was the franchise at that point without a doubt. The creatives behind this one, were names that are synonymous with Bronze Age comics, but specifically the X-Men, and the greatest run that title has ever known (let’s be honest, will ever know).
But back to Manny and Spidey- in this issue, we see these two heroes that couldn’t be more different, working together to achieve a greater good. These two must put an end to the fearful villain known as D’Spayre, and to vanquish him, is to conquer your own fears. This is obviously a very challenging thing to do for anyone, even a superhero. We know that Man-Thing can sense and exploit fear, but what happens when he must face an adversary that can instill fear in his opponent? And we all know Spidey has doubts and fears even without any prodding, so an easy fight this will not be!
Now, onto this great creative team! We all know Chris Claremont (writer) is “Mr. X-Men” and rightfully so, as he crafted so many of the personalities we love(d) for a very long time. He also created a few new characters that have stood the test of time. His frequent collaborator, was John Byrne (pencils, cover and interiors). His pencils and creativity helped the duo raise the bar for all the titles at Marvel, but specifically the X-Men. But, don’t sleep on this material, because both men were at the top of their game on this run of Marvel Team-Up as well! Inks by Bob Wiacek (cover inks by Josef Rubinstein), colors by Phil Rachelson, letters by Bruce Patterson, and edited by Archie Goodwin!
As this volume of Dr. Strange rolled on, different creators were tasked with bringing a new vision to the title. From start to finish (the last few issues were a bit of a let down), this series is packed with creators that did good by the old Doc, and these issues are more proof of that fact.
In the final pages of issue 42, we saw the Doc get attacked from behind by a muscle-bound guy wielding an axe, plus a group of bad-looking dudes and a mysterious woman. Upon further review, this woman is Clea! She instructs the man to let Strange go, and then introduces him to the rebels on this world (Clea went after Wong, who got lost in a previous issue). Well, luck would have it they find Wong, and then it’s up to the rebels, and the Doc and his crew to stop the wicked witch of the…er, I mean, the sorceress Shialmar! In the second issue, we get some back story involving Wong’s family history. A nice little touch considering he didn’t get much exposure aside from being the Doc’s right hand man.
This particular run of Doctor Strange features some really good stories by Chris Claremont (writer). Of course he’s known mostly for his work on the X-Men, and rightly so, but if you’re a fan, don’t stop there because his work here (and Marvel Team-Up just to name one more) is very solid. When you add the incredible art team of Gene Colan (pencils) and Dan Green (inks), with colors by Ben Sean and Bob Sharen, and letters by Diana Albers and Jim Novak (respectively), you get great Bronze Age comics! And if that wasn’t groovy enough, the two covers are by Michael Golden!
Two names that are synonymous with the Bronze Age are most certainly Chris Claremont and John Byrne (and Terry Austin). Their collaboration on the character Iron Fist was the beginning, but then the real feast came in the X-Men, of course. One lesser known partnership between the two juggernauts was in an issue of the magazine Marvel Preview (#11 to be exact). Claremont would write a few more stories after this one but not with Byrne on art. This special edition reprints that story, plus adds some framing sequences with art by Michael Golden (only posting the Byrne artwork though, as that’s how it was originally released)! And I’ll definitely include the great wrap-around (sort of…first and last images) cover by Terry Austin! Enjoy!
Annuals can be tough as far as finding good material. A lot of the time they’re just reprints, so if you own the content in another form, it’s kind of a waste of money. This mag gives you no new content, but does have a cool cover and a couple of new stories to make it worth the dough. And of course, if you’re a completest, you must buy it anyway!
Of course you get all top-notch creators from Marvel at the time in this one. Seeing some of these creators that aren’t known for their horror work turn out such great material is just more proof that this was an incredible time for comics. Each one brings their own personality to the stories, and even though some might say these quick little stories are an afterthought, they are very good and stand the test of time.
The cover is absolutely fantastic, and artist Ken Bald really brought his best to this one. He’s a guy that had worked since the Golden Age, and some of his covers are absolutely gorgeous (look them up!). The first full story (The Cold of the Uncaring Moon) is by Steve Skeates (writer), George Tuska (pencils) and Klaus Janson (inks). There’s nothing like a good werewolf story to get the mag started! Next, we get World of Warlocks! This one is brought to us by Roy Thomas and Gardner Fox (story/writers), and Gene ‘The Dean’ Colan (artist)! This incredible tale of fantasy is a great one! “Lifeboat” follows, and Spidey-scribe Gerry Conway (writer), and Jesus Blasco (art) shows us what terror really is! The writer of the next story, Don McGregor, is one of my favorites, and doesn’t really get credit for much other than his Black Panther work. The guy wrote some really good horror stories, and “Demon of Slaughter Mansion” with art by Juan Boix is no exception! “Birthright,” has a giant serpent-type creature terrorizing a jungle that inhabits most;y peaceful people. Roy Thomas (writer), Gil Kane (pencils) and The Crusty Bunkers (inks) bring us this tale of fantasy! What does Jack the Ripper and a werewolf have in common? Chris Claremont (writer) and Don Perlin (art) know, and they weave a tale to show us. Finally (almost), we see the notorious muck monster, Man-Thing, and he must face not only vicious alligators, but vampire bats as well! Story by Tony Isabella and art by Vicente Alcalzar. There are also three one-pagers “Thunderbird” “They Might be Monsters” and “Monsters from the Sea” by Tony Isabella and Ernie Chan (Pablo Marcos) on art for the They Might be Monsters story)!
In the 1970s, Marvel was spewing out tons of reprint books. One title that started out as a reprint book but eventually changed to new material, was War is Hell! With issue number nine, we were introduced to John Kowalski and the manifestation of Death itself. Kowalski dies but Death will not let him cross over to the other side. Not until he executes a few deeds in Death’s name! A bizarre series to say the least, but also a very good one. It puts the main character in interesting situations, and is very mature for its time. Definitely seek out the back issues, they are well worth your shekels (even the early issues that are reprints).
Naturally, when people hear the name Chris Claremont (writer), they think of the X-Men, and rightly so. He wrote that book for seventeen years, and took something from the ash heap, and turned it into the juggernaut it is today. The book’s new direction was conceived by Tony Isabella and Roy Thomas though, but ultimately, Claremont put the words on the pages! The artistic duties fell on whomever the Marvel offices could grab, but this was not a curse by any stretch. The covers were done by Gil Kane (pencils #9 – 14, with inks by a combination over the issue of Ernie Chan, Tom Palmer, and Mike Esposito), and Herb Trimpe (#15). Interiors had the talents of Dick Ayers (pencils) and Frank Springer (inks) on #9 and 10, Don Perlin (pencils) and Sal Trapani (inks) on #11 with inks by Dave Hunt on #12, George Evans on #14, and Herb Trimpe on #13 and 15! Not too shabby, eh?
A title that gets barely any attention but really resonates with me is Marvel Fanfare. I’m typically not a big anthology book guy, but this one always intrigued me. More often than not, you got solid creators, great characters, and some awesome wrap-around covers! The stories also seemed to be quirky in some way, but not off-putting in any way. Take this issue for example. You get two stories, the first being a Dr. Strange and Clea adventure, as Nicodemus has returned, and threatens to usurp the Doc as the supreme magical being in the universe! The second tale is one that shows Cap and Bucky in a battle during WWII. Not your typical battle though, and by the end, we get to see Cap in a Nazi uniform beating on a Nazi wearing his costume!
The cover is one that is fascinating, and we have Marshall Rogers and P. Craig Russell to thank for that! Both men have worked on the character of Dr. Strange before, and this is another feather in their caps! The story about Dr. Strange features Chris Claremont (writer), Rogers and Russell on art (pencils and inks, respectively), Bob Sharen (colors), Joe Rosen (letters), and Al Milgrom (editor, both stories). The Captain America story has “Ramblin'” Roger McKenzie (writer), Luke McDonnell (pencils), John Beatty (inks), Glynis Wein (colors), and Diana Albers (letters). Get to the shop and grab some issues from this series, you wont be disappointed!
For a time, Marvel tried to further its reading base by creating some books that had female protagonists. One of those characters was “The Cat,” Greer Nelson. She was featured in her own short-lived series, and after became an Avenger. She eventually mutated into a tiger-woman, named Tigra! She also had a stint in Marvel Chillers, and in this issue, she battled none other than Kraven the Hunter! We all know that Kraven is a bad mamma jamma, but don’t worry, Tigra can hold her own!
The creative team on this one was unique as this was the only issue they all worked on (writer, pencils, inks) in the series. You have X-Man supreme, “Clever” Chris Claremont (writer), “Free-Wheelin” Frank Robbins (pencils), “Valiant” Vince Colletta (inks), John Costanza (letters), and George Roussos (colors), that gave us this gem! Oh, and let us not forget editor “Marvelous” Marv Wolfman, and “Jazzy” Johnny Romita (pencils), and “Terrific” Tom Palmer (inks), with the cover!
I love team books, if not for just the different characters, then just because you get more “hero” bang for your buck! But if I had to choose between Marvel Team-UP and Marvel Two-in-One, I’d take the latter. 2-in-1 was just more quirky, or off-beat, if you will. I do however love Dr. Strange, and no matter what title he appears in, I’m going to buy it! In this two-parter, the Doc is somehow turned into a werewolf, and runs amok in NYC. It’s up to Clea, Spider-Man, and Satana to stop him! Throw in a guest appearance by Marie Laveau, and the ever faithful Wong, and you get an issue packed with excitement!
Although Chris Claremont isn’t really known for his work with the macabre, but if you dig, you’ll see he wrote a few different stories in the genre. He does a fine job in this story, showing the great concern Clea has for her mentor/lover! In the art department, we have guest penciler, Mike Vosburg, and he does an outstanding job! Assisting with the art (inks) are Gene Day (#80) and Steve Leialoha (#81)! Both men are solid inkers and have a nice resumé! Letters and colors are both recognizable names as well (colors for #80 are Petra Goldberg, and letters by Denise Wohl– colors in #81 are by Ben Sean, and letters by Rick Parker). Both issues have great covers, and Rich Buckler and Bob McLeod gave us the first one, then followed by Al Milgrom and Steve Leialoha on the second!
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better cover/interior combination than this one. Gene Colan’s career had already seen some of the highest of the highs at this point, having already spanned over thirty years. Michael Golden was just getting started with his career, and he was a change of pace that the industry needed as far as I’m concerned. A great mix indeed, and when you get a strong story from another pro who was rather young in his comic book life, it cannot be denied that this was a good time for comics, and for the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange! In this wild tale, Clea and Sara have switched bodies for the moment, and the Doc ends up almost getting beheaded!
A story this awesome could only be brought to you by Chris Claremont (writer), Gene Colan (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Jim Novak (letters), Bob Sharen (colors), Michael Golden (cover) and Jo Duffy (editor)! Doctor Strange versus a cadre of sorcerers bent on his destruction, and a dragon that would make J.R.R. Tolkien jealous! All this and more wait inside the pages of this Bronze Age classic! Enjoy!