Dr Strange and Dr Doom: Triumph and Torment – OGN (1989)

I typically only talk about single issues of comics when I blog (sometimes two issues), but this OGN (original graphic novel) is one that gets very high praise from me, and as well it should. For those that don’t know, Victor Von Doom’s mother was a sorceress, and one day when she wanted revenge, she called out for help from an ancient evil. The evil that answered is named Mephisto. He then had control over her immortal soul, and one day, every year, Doom attempts to wrest control of his mother’s soul from this demonic entity. After quite a few failed attempts, he turned to the sorcerer supreme himself, Dr. Strange, for help. As with everything, though, not all is as it seems with Doom, and his plans for retrieving his mother’s soul from Limbo!

Undoubtedly, one of my favorite writers is Roger Stern. Whether it’s The Avengers work he did, his run on Doctor Strange (1974 series), or his incredible (but way too short) run on Captain America, he always delivered the goods! The artwork is something to marvel at as well. Mike Mignola (pencils) and Mark Badger (inks and colors) prove to be a very good team. Their rendition of Mephisto is spot on in this story. There is some extra material in the trade I have that fleshes out the characters in this story a bit, and those names are nothing short of iconic as well (Gerry Conway, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, P. Craig Russell, and more).

 

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Defenders: The Coming of The Defenders 1, 2011 “The Return”

After a short break from posting (due to that absurdity called “work”), I’m back with a look at one of my favorite books of all time! Yes, and even though it’s a reprint, it still holds a huge place in my reading trophy case because it shows the formation of my second favorite team, The Defenders! To help pump up readers for the new series that came out that year (2012), Marvel reissued some of the classics that showed what an awesome team The Defenders were! The story shows how Dr. Strange faced an almost impossible situation, and called upon Namor and The Hulk to help him combat it (he actually peered in on the Silver Surfer, but he was knocked unconscious).

From the mind of Roy Thomas (writer), we get the beginnings of a most unusual, but also incredible teams in Marvel comics. Once the tam got their own title, and Steve Gerber began writing, it really went to another level. For now though, Thomas delivered the goods, as he just about always did in his career. The penciling chores were handled by two masters, in Ross Andru and Don Heck (Heck did the backup story in issue 1 of Marvel Feature, showing us the return of Dr. Strange, Andru penciled the rest). As if those two giants weren’t enough, you get inks by Bill Everett, Frank Giacoia, and Sal Buscema! Letters by Sam Rosen and Artie Simek, and edited of course, by Stan Lee (cover by Neal Adams).

 

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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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The Incredible Hulk Annual #6, 1977 “Beware The Beehive!”

This recent grab was…grabbed mostly for one reason- the appearance of Dr. Strange! Not that I don’t like the Hulk, I do, just more so in the pages of books like The Defenders, and The Avengers. I also love the “Beehive” and their insidious plots! In their second attempt at creating a god-like being, they unleash an even more powerful creature that initially tries to kill Dr. Strange! The old Doc has a difficult time with the man-made entity, but the Jade Giant is on his way to smash!

With a plot by editor, Len Wein, David Anthony Kraft (writer) gives us a story that is fairly simplistic but also solid in its delivery. No frills, just a slight mystery followed by straight up action! The art work by Herb Trimpe (pencils, the interiors and cover), Frank Giacoia (inks) and Mike Esposito (inks), give the reader a less rigid look than you typically get from Trimpe pencils (he usually has a more block-style, a la Kirby), and the inkers get credit for that, no doubt about it. Colors by Janice Cohen, and letters by Gaspar, round out the team!

 

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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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Marvel Fanfare #5, 1982 “To Steal the Sorcerer’s Soul!” and “Shall Freedom Endure…”

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!

 

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Marvel Premiere #6, 1973 “The Shambler from the Sea”

You know, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that there was a better age than that of the Bronze Age of comic books. The mix of personalities, both in the books, and within the ranks of the creative offices were outstanding. When you realize all of the creators from previous ages that were still around, plus add in all the new, exciting talent that was making their way into the industry, you were privileged to see an age of entertainment that hasn’t happened since, and probably never will. In this next issue of Marvel Premiere, you get to see the Doc get out of the frying pan and into the fire! Trying to fight a cult, and the entity they worship was bad, but when you have a situation like this issue presents, it just doesn’t get any crazier! The Doc has escaped the clutches of the cult of Sligguth, but now faces another being that is even a bigger challenge because it lives underwater!

The creative team is similar to the previous issue, in that Gardner Fox is still writing. But, the pencils are now by Frank Brunner! And if that wasn’t groovy enough, you get Sal Buscema on inks! Throw in Gaspar Saladino on letters, Roy Thomas editing, and another great cover by  Mike Ploog, and you a recipe for awesomeness!   Image (51) Image (52) Image (53) Image (54) Image (55) Image (56) Image (57)

Doctor Strange: Season One (HC)

To close out 2014, and my month-long look at Dr. Strange, I thought it would be cool to throw another more recent read out there. As I’ve said before, I’ll try anything Dr. Strange, just because he’s my favorite character, and he’s a good one. So, when I heard Marvel was coming out with all  new material that they were going to release as graphic novels, I had to grab a couple of them! I own the Avengers: Endless Wartime book, but I was really impressed by the Doctor Strange: Season One hardcover that came out in 2012. It’s basically a retelling of the Doc’s origin, but a few slight twists. All the big guns are here; Baron Mordo, Dormammu, The Ancient One, and more!

The story is written by none other than Greg Pak, and if you want to read anything of his definitely check this out, plus “The Incredible Hercules” ongoing from 2008-2010, and a title from Aspen Comics called “Dead Man’s Run.” I’m not sure if the latter was finished (it took quite a while between issues to come out), but it was super cool! Not to be outdone, is an artist that I think it going to be huge sooner than later, (she’s already awesome in my book), Emma Rios (Pretty Deadly)! I first saw her work on a Doctor Strange mini-series from 2010. It was absolutely gorgeous, and I became a fan instantly. Another creator that must be mentioned is Jordie Bellaire. To say that she is one of the top colorists in comics is an understatement, for sure. Just look t the colors in this story, and you will be amazed! Happy New Year!

 

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Doctor Strange: From the Marvel Vault #1, 2011 “This Old House”

Contrary to the opinions of some, there a few decent comics books that were published after the 1980’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bronze and Silver Age as a whole, much more than anything that’s come after, but there are some diamonds in  the rough, you just have to find them! Case in point, this 2011 offering from Marvel that features a story that Roger Stern wrote many years before, but it was never published. In this story, we see just how the old Doc took up residence on Bleeker street in NYC! At one time the house was considered haunted, and that’s why no one would live there. It just so happens that the Doc has just returned from doing some traveling, and learned a few tricks of his own!

The story from Roger Stern (plot aid from Joe Edkin) is a great one, and really seems like one that you would’ve read back in the Bronze Age. Artists Neil Vokes (pencils) and Jay Geldhof (inks), give us a spectacular job rendering the Doc, and all the demons inside the house! Not to be outdone is colorist, Lee Loughridge, who adds some eerie tones when needed, but also some bright tones that pop very nicely in the more brightly lit panels. A few really good black & white flashback scenes are the icing on the cake! Throw in an awesome cover by Mario Alberti, and you’ve got a gem that must be sought out by any fan of the Sorcerer Supreme! Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

 

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