Iron Man Annual 4, 1977 “The Caverns of Doomsday!”

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!

 

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DC comics: The Unexpected!

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!

 

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Marvel Comics: War is Hell! (issues 9-12)

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?

 

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Marvel Team-Up 12, 1973 “Wolf at Bay!”

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)!

 

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Captain America 244, 1980 “The Way of All Flesh!”

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!

 

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Ghost Rider 42, 1980 “The Lonesome Death of Johnny Blaze”

I’ve read a couple of good chunks of Ghost Rider (volume one), and a scant few issues of the other series throughout the years. Nothing resonates with me except the earlier stuff with Johnny Blaze. Why? I don’t know, but I can tell you that the earlier work not only dealt with the horror genre but also the biker gang phase of culture in the 1970’s as well. It may be the mystery that was so exhilarating, coupled with the horror angle, but whatever it was, it sticks with you. The very early work was tied in with Daimon Hellstrom (the Son of Satan), which also added a really cool vibe to the character. This issue (I showcased the previous one here) has Johnny still an amnesiac, and fawning over a girl named Gina. There usually was a girl who would pop up now and again, to try the romance angle, but most of them were flat compared to Roxanne Simpson.

The name Michael Fleisher (writer) isn’t one that is tossed around everyday. He had a pretty good run on this title ( as well as Conan, House of Mystery, and House of Secrets), but mostly fill-ins and such. Don Perlin (pencils and inks) is a man who I admire. Another name that’s usually lost among the titans, but one that everyone should know. Anyone that frequents my blog knows him name though! Diana Albers (letters) and Ben Sean (colors), round out the creative team. Not to be forgotten are the two Bob’s! Bob Budiansky (pencils) and Bob Wiacek (inks) gave us this cool cover!

 

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Werewolf by Night #17, 1974 “The Behemoth!”

Everyone likes certain comics for a specific reason. The story, the artwork, the characters, and so on. Sometimes it’s as simple as a splash page, as is the case for me and this issue. I enjoy this title from beginning to end, no matter who the creative team happens to be on any particular issue. The work by Mike Ploog is obviously incredible, but by this time, he’d bowed out, and others took the reigns. Speaking of the reigns, in this particular issue, we see Jack and his handler/friend/lover, Topaz, as they’ve bitten off a bit more than they can chew with Baron Thunder! Not only is he the head of the secret group known only as “The Committee,” but he has a new ally on his side and completely under his command—The Behemoth!

Of course people have their favorites when it comes to creators, but I love a few characters so much, I can enjoy them almost all the time, no matter who is behind the steering wheel. It was only four issues long, but “Mischievous” Mike Friedrich (writer) kept the book moving forward. He’s one of those guys that gets lost among the giants of the era, but he certainly did a fine job. The artwork was by veteran “Dapper” Don Perlin (pencils and inks). I’ve always admired his work and when I look deep, I see a man who gave everything he had to an industry that didn’t always treat its creators fairly. Two more of my favorite creators in “Titanic” Tom Orzechowski (letters) and “Genuine” George Roussos (colors) round out the solid team that gave us this eerie read! A book needs a cover, and if you’re going to do it right, get Gil “Sugar” Kane and “Fearless” Frank Giacoia for the job!

 

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Marvel Premiere #5, 1972 “The Lurker in the Labyrinth”

Continuing with more of the Doctor Strange run in Marvel Premiere, this story is a continuation from the last, and shows the Doc fighting for his life against some crazy cult that has people looking like the Sleestak’s from Land of the Lost! These worshipers of evil also can apparently summon an unseen force to stop people, and even severely weaken the Sorcerer Supreme himself. So, in short, the Doc must overcome a lizard-like entity, his hundreds of hypnotized followers, and restore the town to its peaceful regularity, and oh yeah, all without hurting/killing any of the people who are enthralled! Yeesh!

This magnificent story, like the last issue, is loosely based off of a story by the legend himself, Robert E. Howard. The book’s creative team is nothing short of groovy as well! Writer extraordinaire, Gardner Fox, did very little work for Marvel Comics, but his overall contributions to the comic book industry are nothing short of Herculean. The pencils for this issue are by a man I’m not too familiar with (I’ve seen a couple of pages of his works in reprints of Golden/Silver Age horror/sci-fi stuff), but Irv Wesley (Sam Kweskin) did a fine job. One of the reasons I feel the artwork looks as good as it does, is from the inks of Don Perlin! I’m a big fan of his work, and you should be too! Rounding out the creative team is letter Sam Rosen, and editor Roy Thomas! Oh, and let us not forget the unbelievable cover by the one and only Mike Ploog!

 

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Ghost Rider #41, 1979 “The Freight Train to Oblivion”

I love Johnny Blaze! No, not the “Nicholas Cage I’m doing my Elvis impersonation” guy, but the stunt biker with an attitude that laughs in the face of danger! Listen, if all you know about Ghost Rider is from that craptastic movie, then get out and grab some old issues or Essentials of old flame-head! His early stuff is definitely solid material and when you have good creators like this title typically did, you get good results! In this story, we see Johnny get knocked out, lose his memory, and fall for a hot little lady that drives a race-car!

The writer, Michael Fleisher, had a decent run on this title. he had the pleasure to work with great artists like Don Perlin (pencils & inks). These two guys had a solid run, and really took the character in some interesting directions. Add letterer Clement Robins, colorist Ben Sean, and editor Roger Stern, and you have a great combination! Don’t forget the cool cover by Bob Budiansky and Bob Wiacek! And if all that wasn’t enough, you get a guest appearance by Laurel and Hardy!

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Man-Thing #4, 1980 “Death-Knell”

My love for Manny is documented, and of course, as most people agree, the first volume was better than the second. Mostly because of Steve Gerber and Mike Ploog, and obviously those two gentlemen had an incredible grasp on the character that was difficult to follow. I will admit though, that Chris Claremont and Don Perlin also seemed to be able to relay the silent emotions of the character quite well. In this story, Doc Strange travels to the swamps of Florida, and runs into Manny. For some unknown reason, his magicks are not working on the muck monster, and this spells trouble for Steven!

I know there is a lot of love out there for Swamp Thing, especially the Alan Moore stuff, and rightly so, but definitely give Manny a chance. The Gerber stuff is outstanding, and this second volume is very underrated, and deserves a shot! Written by Mister X-Men himself, Chris Claremont, pencils by Dandy Don Perlin, inks by Bob Wiacek, colors by Ben Sean, letters by John Costanza, and edited by Denny O’Neil (cover by Bob Wiacek)!

 

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