Searching through my boxes, I came upon my Ghost Rider books. This volume had quite a few different creative teams during its eighty-one issue run (volume 1), but there was always a consistency there for me. The quality of the writing and art never went into a direction that soured me on the title. A lot of title of this length start out like a ball of fire, but then fade away (some rather quickly). Whether it was Roger McKenzie, Jim Shooter, or Roger Stern, the stories were at least serviceable if not very good. Art-wise, you had Jack Sparling, Jim Starlin, and Jim Shooter, graced the pages, and with covers by the likes of Gil Kane! So, yeah, good creators!
In this specific issue, we see Johnny Blaze, tearing down a road in the desert. As he looks skyward, he notices five large bats swooping down in his direction. Just as they’re about to attack him, he transforms into the Ghost Rider! He is more than up to the challenge and fights them off. He eventually makes his way to a farmhouse close by, and gets taken in by a woman that is aware of the bat problem. We then see the bats return to their home. They live in a cave, but another fact about them is quite disturbing. You see, they have a master of sorts or a leader that command them, and this creep has his sights set on annihilating the Ghost Rider!
I’m not sure who would be on my side or not, but Michael Fleisher is the best writer for this character. He really gets Blaze and his fiery-headed alter-ego. The artist, Don Perlin is also the guy I immediately think of when I hear Ghost Rider. Perlin really portrays Blaze as tough but sympathetic as well. No nonsense with this art creative team! The colorist, Rob Carosella does a fine job on this issue as well as the letterer, Jim Novak! And this wild cover is by Bob Budiansky (pencils) and Bob McLeod (inks)!
Don’t be alarmed, but this issue is actually part four, the conclusion to a crossover with The Avengers (155, 156, along with SVTU 9). In this wild story we see everything from Dr. Doom, two of him to be exact…then the Avengers, Shroud, The Whizzer, the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, Attuma, and of course the Red Skull!
It was only 1976, but this crossover had a a lot going on. You have Cap and Doom, first fighting, then agreeing to team up against a common foe. Then we have Subby fighting off an attack on Atlantis. And if all that wasn’t enough, you see a fake Dr. Doom (Rudolfo) and Shroud being attacked by the Red Skull and his forces who have taken over Latveria! Yeah, a lot going on, but a ton of fun!
The credits for this book are a roll call of Bronze/Copper Age awesomeness. You get Bill Mantlo (Micronauts, ROM) writing this one, and it fits his style perfectly with all the shenanigans. The art team is Bob Hall (pencils) and Don Perlin (inks), and these two guys work very well together. The rest of the team is Denise Wohl (letters), Don Warfield (colors), and Archie Goodwin (editor)! And the fabulous cover is by Gil Kane and Ernie Chan (some alterations by John Romita)!
Everyone knows there isn’t a more pompous, self-aggrandizing hero than Namor, the Sub-Mariner! It’s part of his charm, apparently. Personally, his exploits on land as an Avenger are much more intriguing to me, but every so often, we get gold in an underwater adventure. As always, the story is lifted up beyond its hero by the proper villain. And Subby doesn’t have a better villain than Orka–The Human Killer Whale! And if he wasn’t enough, throw in Virago as well!
An issue that’s a straight up fight with a villain of the week, for sure, but also an entertaining one. You get Subby with his usual grandstanding, shouting, etc., also a ton of panels featuring Atlantis and it’s inhabitants. Plus, Orka is just a crazy villain (he’s definitely in my top ten), you can’t help but love this issue. There’s also a neat little back-up story (also written by Gerber) “Tales of Atlantis” with an all-star creative cast as well!
Written by Steve “Baby” Gerber, art by “Dashing” Don Heck (pencils) and “Dapper” Don Perlin, colors by Petra Goldberg, letters by Charlotte Jetter, and edited by Roy “The Boy” Thomas! And let us not forget the outstanding cover by Gil “Sugar” Kane (pencils) and “Mirthful” Mike Esposito (inks, with some slight alterations by John Romita)!
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more strange character than Moon Knight. He’s a man who has money, women, good looks, etc. Basically everything most people want, but he also has some serious issues. Initially, he was just a crime fighter with some quirks, but eventually he was shown to have some mental problems, such as schizophrenia. In this early issue though, Marc Spector was more of a Batman knock-off than anything (not to seem disrespectful, but it’s true), and fought the villain of the week for the most part. But you did get a story once in a while, that was off-beat and caught your attention. This is one of them for sure!
The story shows two boys that go check out a “haunted house” in the local neighborhood. Turns out that house is the center of some seedy goings-on, and Moon Knight is there to shut it down. There’s only one problem, it actually might be haunted by a shotgun wielding skeleton!
The story is a good one, and all the credit to Doug Moench (writer) for it. Good action, dialogue, etc. His work on this title and much more from the Bronze Age is great. The art team is Bill Sienkiewicz (pencils and cover art) and Klaus Janson (inks), and both of these gentlemen are very prolific. They have made very good contributions to the medium and should be remembered for them. Bob Sharen (colors), Rick Parker (letters), and Denny O’Neil (editor) round out the creative team!
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)!
I love kooky villains (as should we all!). One near the top for sure is M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing). This character is nothing short of brilliant, and not just because the visual is so unique. His power set, origin, and yes, his look make him an incredibly cool villain. He’s barely used it seems and when he is, it’s usually not to his full potential.
In this issue, we see old Shell-head trying to track down MODOK but not having much success. He then enlists the help of The Champions! Can they find MODOK and A.I.M., or will time run out for them and the world! Sea monsters, men in Beekeeper outfits, a muscle-bound Friar, and a giant headed, telepathic villain complete with lasers and rockets. Next time you’re diving into the back issue bins, seek this one out! Written by Bill Mantlo, art by George Tuska and Don Perlin, colors by Phil Rachelson, John Costanza on letters, and Archie Goodwin editing!
As we creep closer to Halloween, I’d like to take time to spotlight some of the DC comics titles I’ve recently bought. One of my favorites is The Unexpected! An anthology book that never lacked cool stories, good artwork, and variety! Under the watchful eyes of editor Murry Boltinoff, the title gave us stories about madmen, murderers, ghosts, goblins, and grave robbers. An eclectic band of material, The Unexpected was one-third of DC comics’ line of anthology horror titles, and I’ll certainly be showcasing the others as well.
My earliest issue is #115, and the glorious Neal Adams cover shows you exactly what kind of quality you got with this series. Quite a few of the covers were done by perennial DC artist Nick Cardy (one of my all time DC faves), and a couple by the Argentinian artist Luis Dominguez! The interiors had no shortage of superstars, as names like Curt Swan, Werner Roth, George Tuska, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Jerry Grandenetti, Rico Rival, Don Perlin, Rich Buckler, and more! Do yourself (and your local comic shop) a favor, and grab something unexpected this Halloween!
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, TomPalmer, and MikeEsposito), 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?
IS there a video montage out there with Werewolf by Night panels while Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is playing? If not, could someone get on that asap please? Alright, so October is one of my favorite times of year, simply because it reinvigorates my love of horror comics and gives me renewed energy to blog about them. One of the best from the Bronze Age is most definitely Werewolf by Night. Most of that is thanks to Doug Moench and Don Perlin, but there is also Mike Ploog and a few others that did the hairy side of Jack Russell justice over time.
In this fantastic issue, we see Werewolf by Night and Spider-Man in San Francisco, as the two super-powered characters go at it! Jack is under the sway of Moondark (his first appearance), and maybe with Spidey’s help, he can shake it! Hopefully they can accomplish this before the Werewolf tears Spidey into ribbons!
The credits for this issue are a who’s who from the Bronze Age! Scripted by Len Wein, plot by Gerry Conway, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Don Perlin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Charlotte Jetter, and cover by Gil Kane (pencils) and John Romita (inks)!
Taking a peek at a comic book that gets overlooked because it fits between two legendary runs (Englehart/S. Buscema and Stern/Byrne). Sometimes people forget or just out right malign certain batches of issues because they aren’t widely regarded as gems. There’s a huge downside to that though, as many never get to see books like this one. The second issue of a two-parter, we have a sort of a “monster gone amok” story. But, not just all action, there are some great panels of emotion in this issue as well!
The names attached to this book are some of my favorites. Roger McKenzie (writer- click here for an interview that Roger recently gave on the Charlton website), is probably most famous for his excellent run on Daredevil, or his horror work, but don’t sleep on his other stuff, because the guy knows how to write any kind of story. Don Perlin (pencils) is one of those under-appreciated guys that I hope some day gets the recognition he deserves. His work on Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night are super cool. An artist that you don’t see much for Marvel (that I know of) in the way of inking another penciler, is Tom Sutton. Like McKenzie, he’s probably most noted from his horror work, and that genre definitely suited him best (but he did do a solid job here). Mark Rogan (letters), George Roussos (colors), and Jim Salicrup (editor), round out the interiors. The cover is by the team of Frank Miller and Al Milgrom!