Monsters Unleashed Annual 1, 1975 “Super Annual Issue”

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)!

 

 

 

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Marvel Comics Giant-Size Chillers!

And now, with Halloween right around the corner, let the horror comics binge begin! A few months back, I spotlighted issue one of this series, and recently completed the (extremely short) series. These over-stuffed comics have so much to offer. You get new material plus reprints of Silver Age horror stories as well (in the first and second issues anyway, and the third having all reprints but from other Bronze Age books). The fantastic covers were also a treat, as they showcased some of the tremendous talent of the Bronze Age.

The new material is a bit more graphic than the reprints, due to the fact that the reprints are from the comics code era. But don’t fret, they are definitely worth reading, especially when coupled with the new material. The stories range from Lovecraftian beasts, cryptids, fortune tellers, gargoyles, etc.

The list of creators that had a hand in these three issues is astounding. A long list it may be, but each person is going to be listed starting with the first issue and ending with the third. Seek these issues out at the first opportunity, as they will certainly become more and more scarce!

Issue #1 – cover by Larry Lieber (Romita alterations) and Mike Esposito; interior work by Tony Isabella, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, Jean Izzo, Carl Wessler, Alfredo Alcala, Larry Lieber, Miguel Ripoll Guadayol, Dave Hunt, Doug Moench, Win Mortimer, Charlotte Jetter, Ralph Alphonso, Adolfo Buylla, Paul Reinman, Dave Gibbons, Dick Ayers, Mike Lombo, Stan Lee, and George Roussos.

Issue #2 – cover by Gil Kane and John Romita; interior work by Linda Fite, Ron Wilson, Jack Abel, Janice Cohen, June Braverman, Carl Pfeufer, Tom Orzechowski, Don McGregor, Paul Reinman, Ed Winarski, Stan Lee, Al Eadeh, Bill Everett, Don Heck, Artie Simek, Manny Stallman, John Forte , and Carl Burgos.

Issue #3 – cover by Ed Hannigan and Bernie Wrightson (letters by Danny Crespi) interior work by Alfredo Alcala, Len Wein, Marie Severin, Dan Adkins, Gaspar Saladino, Bernie Wrightson, Roy Thomas, Artie Simek, Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, Barry Windsor-Smith, Sam Rosen, Allyn Brodsky, Jack Katz, Gene Colan, Mike Esposito, Marie Severin, Jean Simek, Jack Kirby, John Verpoorten, Denny O’Neil, Tom Sutton, and Marv Wolfman.

 

 

 

 

The Spider: Scavengers of The Slaughtered Sacrifices (2002)

When you have a character that has been around since 1933, it’s kind of double-edged sword if you try to modernize him. Most creators don’t though, and that’s a good thing. Sure you might miss out on the youth that doesn’t care about pulp characters, but you will hit your target demographic. The character in this story is called The Spider. He’s Richard Wentworth, a rich, playboy type guy, that uses his wealth to help him in his fight against injustice…no, not Batman, The Spider! When Harry Steeger created this character, the only other big time pulp characters were basically The Phantom, and The Spirit. Steeger did a good job at using the momentum those characters had generated, but The Spider definitely stood out from them.

Fast forward to the year 2012, Dynamite Entertainment put out some promotional material stating a new series starring this character was soon to be published. It definitely piqued my interest, and the series paid off with great talent (David Liss, Colton Worley, Alex Ross, Francesco Francavilla, and others), that brought intriguing stories, incredible artwork, and quite frankly, a breath of fresh air to the medium.

This introduction got me thinking that perhaps there was more material that I could feast upon? The first book I encountered was an immediate buy. Why? Because when I saw Don McGregor (writer) and Gene Colan (art) at the top of the book (The Spider: Scavengers of the Slaughtered Sacrifices – 2002 Vanguard), that’s all it took. I knew nothing about the story but had faith in Don’s reputation, and of course, it didn’t hurt that my favorite artist was also one of the creators either. If you like crime, action, Noir, and a twist of the macabre, then this is a book you must seek out right away. It’s like mashing Tomb of Dracula and Batman meets Ghost Rider. No joke, it’s that cool.

 

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Jungle Action #7, 1973 “Death Regiments Beneath Wakanda”

The title Jungle Action, started off as a reprint book showcasing stories from the 1950’s of…well, jungle action, from the series of the same title (and others). In issue #5 however, the book became a vehicle for the Black Panther! This Jack Kirby creation was very prominent in the pages of the Fantastic Four, but after Kirby left, it seemed like the character lost his home. The character would find a home here, then transition to the Avengers, and become a regular there for a time.

The writer, ‘Dutiful’ Don McGregor, is one that had the Midas touch when it came to certain characters, and the Black Panther is definitely one of them! Teamed with penciler ‘Riotous’ Rich Buckler, the two would be a solid duo that cranked out many great books over time. Inks by ‘Santa’ Klaus Janson, letters by ‘Titanic’ Tom Orzechowski, colors by Glynis Wein, and edited by ‘Rascally’ Roy Thomas!

 

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Amazing Adventures #35, 1976 “The 24-Hour Man”

You know, there are certain creators, for one reason or another, that simply made the Bronze Age of comics what it was, and will always be. What is/was it? A fantastical time where the stories were more than just entertainment for a certain demographic. They were meaningful, articulate, a sign of the times, picturesque, thrilling, frightening, and so on. Well, that’s how I feel anyway. There were titles and concepts that brought out the best in the medium and it the creators certainly should get the lion-share of the credit.

In this installment, we’ll be taking a look at one certain title, and it’s two main collaborators. Amazing Adventures started off as a book like most of the time period did initially. A superhero book full of solid, established talent (Jack Kirby, John Buscema, etc.) and proven characters (The Avengers, Ka-Zar, etc.). Soon after the early issues though, people like Neal Adams and Roy Thomas came along, and the title took a slight turn towards the vibe that would define the decade/age. In issue #18, we saw the first appearance of a character called “Killraven,” and the title would change forever.

A few different creators wrote the series for a couple of issues, but when Don McGregor came aboard (issue#21), along with artists like Herb Trimpe, Rich Buckler, and even Gene Colan, the title started gaining series momentum. It apexes with the arrival of an artist named P. Craig Russell, in issue #27 (along with an incredible cover by Jim Starlin). This team was perfect for this new concept (War of the Worlds), grabbing some ideas from the H.G. Wells book, and creating new material and scenarios. These two men were nothing short of revolutionaries in the industry, and are right at the top for listing creators of that age! In this specific issue, Russell gives us a dynamite cover, and is assisted by Keith Giffen & Jack Abel (finished art/inks) with the artwork on the interiors. Irv Watanabe letters, Janice Cohen is the colorist, and ‘Marvelous Marv’ Wolfman, the editor!

 

 

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Power Man #30, 1975 “Look What They’ve Done to Our Lives, Ma”

You know, whenever I’m feeling kind of down, I can always turn to comic books and/or old school horror/sci-fi movies to brighten up my life. There’s actually one thing that you can add to those two mediums that helps even more, and that is blaxploitation. The movie “Blacula,” and its sequel, are both films that make me laugh, but also movies that scream the 1970’s, with their atmosphere, music, and vernacular. Just a great time for both comics and movies (and T.V.)! Marvel Comic’s answer to that sub-genre, was of course, the Hero for Hire, Luke Cage! This tough, street-wise dude was one bad mamma jamma, and has skin that bullets can’t penetrate!

In this issue, we see Cage fight two of the most off-the-wall villains you’ll ever see, in the Cockroach and Piranha! Both of these crooks posed different problems for Cage, but in the end, he figures out a way to stop both of them. The story was written by one of the best Bronze Age writers, Don McGregor. The art was equally impressive, with Rich Buckler (cover by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson) and Arv Jones on pencils, and Keith Pollard inking. Petra Goldberg was the colorist, and the letters by Denise Wohl. All of these talented people were on top of their game for sure. The book was edited by none other than ‘Marvelous’ Marv Wolfman!

 

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Amazing Adventures #27, 1974 “The Death Breeders”

What better way to get back on track, then with a book based off of the works of H. G. Wells! In the 1970’s, Marvel adapted some stories from “War of the Worlds” in their Amazing Adventures title. They were nothing short of spectacular, and with the creators that were behind this wonderful run, it’s no wonder why they were so awesome. In this epic sci-fi story, we get Killraven, as his ship is attacked by a monstrosity from under the surface. He and his warrior friends must survive that, then free a captive woman who holds some answers they need!

Everything awesome about this issue starts with the cover. Let’s be honest, when you can get Jim Starlin to do a cover for a sci-fi story, you’re already guaranteed some buyers, even if the story and art on the inside are sub-par. But wait, they aren’t! Writer, Don McGregor, brings us this fantastic tale, and not to be outdone, is artist extraordinaire, P. Craig Russell! Jack Able on inks, Petra Goldberg on colors, and John Costanza lettering rounds out the creative team! Throw in Roy Thomas as editor, and you get a book that brings you everything you ever loved about the 1970’s!

 

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Monsters Unleashed #11, 1975

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This gem is my first foray into the magazine market of Marvel Comics. I was really shocked at how fantastic the interiors were in this one (not to mention that fabulous cover by Frank Brunner)! Not only does it contain three really good stories, but the very inside cover brings an illustration by the late, great, Dave Cockrum (below)! And not just any illustration, but one of my favorite Universal Monster movies, Creature From The Black Lagoon! It has a short prose piece underneath the artwork, and with just one small paragraph, you get the chills thinking about that great film!

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Next, we get a very scary story, starring Gabriel, Devil Hunter! In this one, we see Gabriel, as he must exorcise a very powerful demon from an old man. This demon isn’t going quietly though, and it will take every trick in the book to put this one down! Great tale by Doug Moench & Sonny Trinidad!

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“The Empire”, is a story by Gerry Conway & Rico Rival, and it tells of corporate viciousness, and all that it leads to in the end. This one might not have the guts, blood, or demons, but it really makes you wonder about things that are quite sinister in the corporate world on a daily basis, I’m sure!

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Last, but not least, we see a story that Don McGregor & Billy Graham really use to send the issue out with a bang! Literally! This one reminds me of a Jonny Quest episode, where a mad scientist is experimenting with genetics in the reptile family. A once small lizard, grows out of control and terrorizes the city. The ending is reminiscent of the Ray Harryhausen movie, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms!

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As you can see, the stories and artwork in this magazine are excellent. Editor-in-chief, Marv Wolfman, along with Don McGregor (editor/writer), David Anthony Kraft (associate editor), and John Romita (art director), were the driving force behind the editing and art direction of these fine publications, and Marvel had a ton of them during this decade (Vampire Tales, Savage Tales, Tales of the Zombie, etc.)!