Eight simple words, that’s all it takes to get my blood pumping. Do you dare enter The House of Mystery? An anthology title from DC comics that started in 1951, the book went on for an amazing 321 issues! The stories were all over the place of course, as the times changed (and the comics code), so did the material. Honestly though, it wasn’t until the Bronze Age that the book had some of the best creators on it.
The cover to this book is by none other than Neal Adams (pencils and inks). He proved that no matter the genre, he can produce incredible work. The inside brings three different stories (along with some extras). The first is “The Gardener of Eden” by John Albano (writer) and the exquisite work of Jim Aparo! A doctor learns a new lesson the hard way! “Image of Darkness” brings a tale of terror when a husband and wife are having domestic problems. Written by Robert Kanigher, and art by Gray Morrow! Finally, “Nobody Loves a Lizard!” shows a boy with a pet lizard that has an incredible secret. Writer Virgil North, with art by Don Heck!
Back in the 1990s, there was still a good bit of material being reprinted from decades earlier. Case in point, Marvel Tales ran until 1994 (starting in 1966)! Almost thirty years of reprinted material, and that feat is nothing short of…dare I say spectacular? There were also one-shots, oversized books, etc., including this one from 1993/4. “The Spider and the Bat” recounts the first ever meeting between the 1970s king of monsters, Dracula, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
The cover for the original book is pretty good (John Romita, cover at the very bottom, borrowed from the interwebs), but the reprint isn’t the greatest. I’m not the biggest Joe Mad fan, (so keep that in mind) but I can’t imagine too many people thinking this is one of his (or anyone else) best. The story is by perennial comic book great, the late Len Wein. The man was seemingly one of the nicest men to ever grace the industry ( I met him once at a NYCC and he was cool), and created some very good content in his day, plus was editor on some of the best works in the industry. For the artistic duties, we have the team of Ross Andru (pencils) and Don Heck (inks). A solid team as far as this book goes for sure, and they tell a great visual story together. John Kalisz (colors) John Costanza (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor) round out the creative force behind this cool book! There are also two reprints from the Silver Age in the back as well and both are about vampires!
Let’s face it, villains are much cooler than heroes. Their ability to make us think, to challenge the hero, to explore boundaries, etc., is way beyond that of their counterparts. Take Kang the Conqueror for instance. He’s without a doubt a top-tier villain in any universe, and has proved that since 1964 (Avengers 8). This mag is a reprint of The Avengers 23, 1965, and the fourth appearance of the character in under two years! For any era, that’s pretty good, and shows what kind of staying power Kang would have for years to come!
In this issue, we see Cap leaves the team after some turmoil (he was a bit temperamental back then!), and attempts to take a job as a sparring partner for a boxing champion. That lasts about two seconds, and he returns to the team afterward. Just in time, as the rest of the team has been subdued by Kang! And immediately after taking down Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…Kang attempts to take Ravonna out on a date but her dad says no (panel below). No joke!
This epic tale was brought to you by Dashing Don Heck (pencils), Jazzy John Romita (cover and interior inks), Stan “the man” Lee (writer), Artie Simek (letters), and Jack “King” Kirby (cover pencils)!
After getting an incredible deal on this comic, I figured I’d share this gem from the Bronze Age. This book contains the fourth appearance of the muck monster from the Florida Everglades! In this early appearance, Manny is caring for a baby that some animal threw over a bridge! After taking the child to a doctor’s home, he seeks revenge against the heartless man. We also get a quick two page recap of Manny’s origin. Gerry Conway (writer), and the art team of Howard Chaykin and Gray Morrow (cover art by Morrow as well) bring us this gruesome tale!
There are also two awesome back-up stories in this one too! “The Spell of the Sea Witch” (Allyn Brodsky writer, art by Jack Katz and Bill Everett!) is a tale about a crook that commandeers a boat that two young lovers are aboard. They run into some ghost pirates and then things really get crazy! Then we take a trip down to Davey Jones’ Locker, brought to you by Stan Lee and Don Heck!
The Silver Age is when it all turned around for Marvel comics. The company went from vanilla books starring monsters, western heroes, and cheesy romance characters, to exciting titles like the Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man, etc. After just a few short years, Marvel had bona-fide hits on their hands, so they began to issue reprints of these stories (just 4 years after they were first printed!). These books are great, and you get four stories in each one! Classics starring the Fantastic Four, Iron Man (Tales of Suspense), The Incredible Hulk, and Dr. Strange (Strange Tales)! You get the best from Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Stan Lee, and more! Rather than droning on about how great these books are, I’ll just let the images do the talking for me!
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).
Another post on the same day? Uh, yeah, because it’s Halloween (and there will be a few more, too!). Hopefully by the time this post hits the airwaves, I’ll be enjoying some great deals at WildPig Comics, in New Jersey. I’ll be looking to fill some gaps in my collection, especially in the Bronze Age era! For now, though, you’ll have to settle for this little gem! We get four stories, and each one brings a different thing to the table. The first is a tale about an alien invasion, but one with unexpected results…for the aliens that is! The second one is called “The Thing on the Moon,” and deals with a giant creature on the moon that was placed there by inhabitants of Earth. Thirdly, we see a foreign substance that can eat the flesh off of a man right down to the bone! The last story shows an attractive woman and the scores of men after her affections. She suckers one of them into giving her ten-thousand dollars, but after he sees her with another man, he’s plots his revenge!
The initial story is by Steve Ditko (art), and isn’t the best work he’s ever produced, but certainly better than most. He does a great job on the Sphinx in the story, though. The next one is by Don Heck (art), and he brings his usual talents to the table. The last two have artists who I’m not all that familiar with, in Doug Wildey and Harry Anderson. Both men do a solid job on their respective stories, and keep the book at an even pace as far as the artwork. All stories have scripts by Stan Lee. The cover, which is fantastic, is by none other than “Rampaging” Ron Wilson!
As Halloween is just around the corner, the hits just keep on coming! Another reprint of Atlas Era material is here, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Ghosts, ghouls, a robot, and just about anything else you can imagine! The first story is about a robot named “Grutan.”The scientist that creates him has a grudge against mankind, and wished to unleash his new robot to make them pay! The second tale involves twin brothers that are exact opposites in some ways, but ugly on the outside doesn’t always equal evil! The third story involves a ghastly figure, music, and a graveyard. The last story shows how a prison inmate makes a deal with the devil!
With all four stories credits going to Stan Lee, we are left to dive into the wonder of the artwork from some of the best of that time period. First up is Don Heck (pencils and inks on the first story). This guy was at marvel from the beginning with the rest of the giants, and somehow never gets mentioned with them. Study the man’s work, and I think you’ll find a fine craftsman. The name Mike Sekowsky might not be one of familiarity to Marvel zombies, but he was definitely someone who did a good bit of work for DC comics back in the day (credits as probable but not confirmed for the second and fourth stories). Lastly, we have Pete Morisi. He’s beat known for his work at Charlton, and was also a confidant of Don Heck! We get a great cover by the team of Mike Netzer and Pablo Marcos!
How is it possible that a character that cannot speak be so appealing? Well, when you take an origin story that involves a mystical swamp (near the Nexus of All Realities), a scientist, and Hydra (a later retcon not explicitly told in the origin story), and you’ve got a great way to convince me. Taking the concept from King Kong (1933), men who seek to cage something unnatural, and put it on display, are just begging for trouble. The trope of trying to contain something that is virtually uncontrollable, is one that’s been used many times over, with a varying degree of success. This time is definitely on the positive side.
When he was still alive, the mind of Steve “Baby” Gerber (writer) might have been a scary place to dive into. Hi stories about the weird and supernatural are top-notch. Why he isn’t recognized more outside of the circle of hardcore fans is a mystery to me, especially considering the praise other creators from that era and beyond seem to have for him and his work. Of Out of all the people who’ve drawn Man-Thing, I think “Big” John Buscema (pencils on interiors, and cover art) is my favorite. He certainly understood how to draw everything even though he’s gone on record stating he didn’t like to draw superheroes all that much, he always did an admirable job. He is still one of the giants of the industry. “Santa” Klaus Janson (inks) is an artist that I first saw on Daredevil, and always thought he brought an extra dimension to whatever he had his hands in. John Costanza (letters) and Linda Lessmann (colors), are two very capable contributors that never failed to get it done. Let us not forget “Rascally” Roy Thomas (editor), as his work not only as a writer, but editing also is something that puts him at the top of the food chain in comic book history! You also get three bonus stories with work by great creators like Dick Ayers, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby!
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!