Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction 6, 1975

The last regular issue of this series is upon us. Only one more issue to go after this one (Giant Size Special 1), and it does make me a a little sad, as I’ve been enjoying blogging about them immensely. That being said, let us traverse this issue, which has a brilliant cover by Frank Brunner, and the inside cover has a very awesome piece by Pat Broderick!

The issue begins with a foreword by Roy Thomas, instructing any readers of a religious persuasion to please not bombard the office with hate mail, especially after reading a certain story in the issue. I find it fascinating that he felt it necessary to include the mild warning, but I guess in 1975 it was something he felt was needed. With a crucifixion on the cover, it’s definitely a polarizing book.

The issue begins with another edition of “Slow Glass” as all have before. We get an interesting scene that is brought to us by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, and Dan Adkins.

The first story, “Behold the Man,” is an interesting one to say the least (and the one Thomas warned about in the foreword). A time machine slings a man into the distant past (biblical times), but we also get flashbacks to present day. The story has accurate biblical passages, but does its own thing as well. Script by Doug Moench, art by Alex Niño (original story by Michael Moorcock).

After this, we get a four page look into the life of Slow Glass creator, Bob Shaw. Sort of a bio piece, but definitely worth reading.

Old Soldier” is the next story, and is certainly deserving of being in a title about unknown worlds and sci-fi! Written and drawn by Bruce Jones!

Up next, is “Mind Games.” Even though the Vietnam War was over by now, creators (and society) were still very much engrossed with it, and its repercussions. Both of these stories reflect that in one way or another. Written and illustrated by John Allison.

What would a good magazine be without a witch burning by the Puritans? But, this story has something else…Spacemen! “Visitation” is written by Don Glut with art by Ruben Yandoc!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction 4, 1975

Back once again to keep plowing forward through this great sci-fi magazine run from Marvel Comics. Names on the cover are a big thing with these mags, as they wanted to pull in not only comic book readers, but the science fiction crowd as well. A spectacular cover by Frank Brunner certainly raises the chances of people buying this one as well!

In this issue, we get an awesome interview with A.E. Van Vogt! The interview was conducted by none other than future Batman scribe, Alan Brennert! This is followed by a short one-pager (by David Anthony Kraft) talking about Otis Adelbert Kline, and his stories set on Venus (see the link about his feud with ERB). Lastly, there is a column titled “Fantastic Worlds” by Don and Maggie Thompson, that talks about all elements of sci-fi (books, shows, etc.). Now onto the stories!

First up is the final entry in the “Slow Glass” story that has been the bookends for the magazine so far. In this one, the final chapter does not disappoint, as Mr. Tyme must answer to a board of aliens as to where and how he obtained slow glass!  Tony Isabella script, Don Heck and Frank Chiaramonte on art duties.

The A.E. van Vogt adaptation is up next, and “The Enchanted Village” is probably the best story of the book. The script is by Don and Maggie Thompson, with art by Dick Giordano!

A Vision of Venus” brings a tale of space travelers that have been captured by aliens! As mentioned above, the source material is from Otis Adelbert Kline, the script and art by Tim Conrad.

The following tale is not intended to be humorous (I think), but “Good News from the Vatican” comes off that way to me. It’s a story about a robot Pope (somewhere, my friend Herman is laughing)! Written by Gerry Conway, art by Adrian Gonzales.

The penultimate tales is “Encounter at War.” There is a bit of a forward on the previous page stating that this one is the conclusion to a story that was started in an underground comic. It’s a good one but not anything that hasn’t been seen before. A little bit of aliens, and a little bit of treachery! Written by Jan Strnad, with art by Richard Corben!

Finally, “Kick the Can” brings us to a close. The story revolves around a guy that is desperately trying to get off an alien planet, and back home. Some really neat flashback scenes and a giant Tarantula to boot!  Written and drawn by Bruce Jones!

A solid issue overall, but I can’t escape the feeling that it took a slight dip versus the previous three. Not sure why, but it could possibly be the Slow Glass story didn’t end that great or the art wasn’t as good as the previous installments (Gene Colan). Which of course, might just be my bias.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown World’s of Science Fiction 2, 1975 “All-New! War Toy”

In this second week of my blog’s revival, I wanted to continue looking at this incredible sci-fi magazine series by Marvel Comics. Like the previous issue, this one has bookends featuring “Slow Glass” and it has an excellent lead story, along with more chapters of Day of the Triffids! Two very good articles are also included in this one, so strap yourself in, as this rocket ship is blasting off!

Another introduction to Slow Glass leads off, and this one is very intriguing. We see Mr Tyme heading into a lavish apartment complex (a deluxe apartment in the sky, you might even say). Once inside, he meets up with a rich man named Mr. Wilder. the two did some business in the past, but the consequences of that visit, are about to come home to roost! Written by Tony Isabella, with art by Frank Brunner and Klaus Janson!

After a peek into the Slow Glass, we see “War Toy!” A group of scientists/doctors are gathered around an operating table, but there patient isn’t a man, but a robot! He’s trained to be the perfect soldier, but what happens when the war is over? Written by Tony Isabella, art by George Pérez and Rico Rival!

An interview with author Alfred Bester (Demolished Man) is up next, and was conducted by Denny O’Neil! It’s accompanied by two illustrations by Rick Bryant, and a sample page from an Australian comic strip adaptation of The Stars my Destination (by Bester). The adaptation is by Steve Harper and Stanley Pitt.

The third installment is a story called “Adam…and No Eve.” An adaptation from Bester, this revolves around a man that creates a rocket fuel to get to space, but the mathematician he’s hired informs him that the fuel is deadly, and if even a single drop hits the Earth, it will kill billions. Written by Denny O’Neil, with art by Frank Robbins and Jim Mooney!

The Hunter and the Hunted” is up next, and the story and art are by Mike Kaluta (he created the awesome cover for this issue as well!). Full disclosure, I have no idea what he was going for here. Very minimalist story/art, but fascinating anyway.

The following addition shows an article by Don Thompson about the Hugo awards. There are photos and mentions of sci-fi stalwarts like Harlan Ellison, Frank Kelly Freas, and so forth.

Writer/artist Bruce Jones then gives us a tale called “Specimen.” This is a cool story that has a twist ending I definitely didn’t see coming! Kudos to Jones for this one, as it’s probably my favorite story of his I’ve ever read.

Two more chapters finish off “The Day of the Triffids” adaptation, and it was really a fun ride. Gerry Conway (John Wyndham novel) and Rico Rival do an excellent job!

The magazine is finished off by two more pages of the Slow Glass story by Isabella, Brunner, and Janson. Again, great work by these creators on this premise by Bob Shaw.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction 1, 1974 “Day of the Triffids”

At first sight, this magazine (published in 1975) doesn’t look like anything special. Oh the cover by Kelly Freas (with alterations by John Romita), is very cool, but sci-fi hadn’t really hit it big yet in the mainstream (pre- Star Wars, and Star Trek films). What Marvel did though, was bring in stories written by some of the greatest writers of the genre, and adapt them for comic book format. When you can slap the name Ray Bradbury on your cover, it’s going to sell some books for sure.

As if the spectacular cover wasn’t enough, we get a frontispiece by Spanish master, Esteban Maroto! Most of Marvel’s magazines had these pin ups inside the front cover, and some even at the end of the issue. Using Bradbury’s name on the cover was a good idea, but in all honestly, the name Bob Shaw should’ve been on there as well. His concept “slow glass” is the subject of this book, and sort of introduces the other stories (and bookends as well), as a portmanteau film executes for its audience. Those pages are by Tony Isabella (script, adapted from the Shaw idea), and the art team of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer!

The first chapter is “The Day of the Triffids!”In this story (based on the John Wyndham novel), we see a particular species of tree that not only seems to be able to think for itself, but has malice toward human being as well! Written  by Gerry Conway, with art by Ross Andru and Ernie Chan!

Next, we get a story written and drawn by Neal Adams! The story is an anti war/Vietnam piece told through the lens of sci-fi. The story is told almost like news blurbs, which is fascinating for 1975!

The third installment is a fabulous interview with Ray Bradbury. He speaks about his youth, and the formative that guided some of his writing. The interview is conducted by Sheldon Dorf.

Next up is a hilarious parody story (Smash Gordon!) by none other than Frank Brunner (story and art)! This one is not only comedic, but it is absolutely gorgeous to look at. If you’ve seen his work before, get ready, as this is on another level.

An atomic test in the New Mexico desert is the start of “Savage World!” Three of the people involved with the bomb test end up in an underground world. Are the rulers peaceful as they claim or not? Script by Wally Wood, and art by Al Williamson!

Another interview graces the pages of this magazine, and this time it’s with the cover artist (and artistic giant), Kelly Freas! They include a few images of his work on some science fiction books from yesteryear as well!

We then get another story that is pretty straightforward, but has a comedic ending. Automated cities of the future are now the only place you’ll find human beings. A plane crash strands a few people out in a wasteland, and as you can imagine, it doesn’t end well. Story and art by Mike Kaluta!

Finally, another chapter of Slow Glass, and this one is seven pages long! We watch as a couple who has traveled off the beaten path attempts to purchase some slow glass from an elderly man. But this man has a secret, and it’s one he doesn’t want people to know. Script by Tony Isabella, with art by Gene Colan and Mike Esposito!

As of this blog post being published, these magazines can still be had for reasonable prices on places like Ebay. Any interested parties should think about getting these sooner rather than later, as they probably won’t be reprinted any time soon (Marvel wqould probably need to get the rights to publish it again as the source material belongs to the book publisher or the estates).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comic Book’s Unsung Heroes! Steve Gerber!

 

Trapped in a world he never made, Steve Gerber was a writer that not only made his mark with his idiosyncratic style, but if you really dig deep, and explore his work, you’ll see a talent and love for the medium of comic books that was second to none. When Marvel fired Gerber after he threatened a law suit over Howard the Duck, it would’ve been easy for him to pack up and go home. Instead he kept fighting, and stayed in the business. But, most would say what he did before that time was his best work, and I would agree. Welcome to #SuperBlogTeamUp (image by @Charlton_Hero)!

 

 

When Steve Gerber came to New York in 1972, he didn’t show up with a portfolio of ideas and pitch them to Roy Thomas. All he did was take the Marvel writers test, and he was in. At first, he was just a fill in writer, but he eventually made his way to Daredevil and Submariner. He injected some wild characters and elements not seen before into those books, and this is something he’d become known for as the years went by. Alongside Gene Colan, he left his mark on DD (not the level of Frank Miller, but definitely a fun, well remembered run).

Later in 1972, Gerber scripted Adventure into Fear 11, his first shot at the character Man-Thing. This story was more akin to the Marvel horror books of the times, though, but certainly well scripted. In the next issue, we see Gerber as most remember him. Tackling the subject of racism (and for the early 1970s was nothing to over look), Gerber shows not just the evil of the subject, but an extremely good story that makes you think from a different perspective, which is always a good thing. Issue 12 really set the tone for Gerber’s work going forward, as he wrote a story about a hardcore racist and his killing of a black man (excellently rendered by Jim Starlin and Rich Buckler). Not a pleasant ending to this story, which drives his message home even more. His run on Man-Thing is my personal favorite of his works. The way he used a character that cannot speak, along with the framing characters (Richard Rory, who resembles Roy Thomas, Jenifer Kale, etc.) to tell all sorts of different stories is amazing. Oh, and he wrote two other characters that couldn’t speak (or rarely did in Simon Garth, the Zombie and The Living Mummy). This is something I can’t ever recall another writer even coming close to doing at his level.

 

 

Another story of note concerning the Man-Thing, is “Night of the Laughing Dead” (issues 5 and 6 of his own volume one series). The story is pretty deep and focuses on subjects ranging from religion to parental neglect and abuse. Again, heavy subjects, but Gerber uses a Swamp Monster, hippies, and circus performers to tell this must-read story. Steve even wrote himself into a Man-Thing story (Man-Thing 22, volume 1), and it was glorious (image below)!

 

Marvel started a team title in 1972, with a few heavy hitters. Dr. Strange, Hulk, Submariner, and the Silver Surfer adorned the pages of The Defenders. The title had a few different creative teams for the first nineteen issues, but once Gerber took the reigns (issue 20), the title emphatically took off. Over the next twenty-two issues, he’d write some superhero stories (crossover with the original Guardians of the Galaxy), another one about racism (Sons of the Serpent), and two stories that most consider quite insane (The Headmen and Nebulon and the Bozos).  Of course, insanity for one person is entertainment for the other. I fall in the category of the latter.

Most will cite Howard the Duck as Gerber’s crowning achievement, and I’m not enough of an authority to argue any different. That character is certainly the one that he had on many occasions given the impression (or said right out) was his favorite. I’m still trying to obtain everything he’s ever written but that’s going to take some time. But I’ll definitely consider it time well spent. Thanks, Steve, for all the great comic books.

 

 

Steve passed away in 2008, but his legacy and wit still lives on today, as many writers that have come since sing his praises. He was posthumously inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, and received the Bill Finger Award. If you’ve never read any comics by Steve Gerber, do yourself a favor, and give one a try!

 

Please take a look at the other contributors to this round of Super Blog Team-Up! Check out “Creators” and “What IF.” Enjoy!

 

The Tell-Tale Mind  Arak: Son of Thunder – A Lost Adventure

The Superhero Satellite- What If Peter Parker had become Speedball instead of Spider-Man?

Dave’s Comic Heroes – Blue Devil Creation

Between the Pages – Scrooge McDuckTales Woo-oo!

Comics Comics Comics…-Sergio Aragones!

In My Not So Humble Opinion-Kurt Schaffenberger, the definitive Lois Lane artist of the Silver Age.

Source Material – What If Captain Confederacy

Comic Reviews by Walt – What if the Ultraverse Had Continued?

Pop Culture Retrorama – What If The Sinister Dr. Phibes Had Been Produced!

 

Supernatural Thrillers Featuring The Living Mummy!

As I sit here watching The Mummy’s Shroud (1967, Hammer Studios), The Living Mummy (N’Kantu) seemed like a good subject to present during my month-long look at horror comics. As the title Supernatural Thrillers switched from new characters every in issue to an ongoing monster of its own in the mummy.

In the first few issues, we see N’Kantu being disoriented, then fighting thieves and hoodlums. Later though, he would be pitted up against other supernatural beings, and that was a spectacle. It’s a natural progression of course, and sufficed to say it gave the readers some good entertainment. These “Elementals” (Hydron, Magnum, Hellfire) showed some real persistence and continually attacked N’Kantu and his friends (once the mummy became more lucid, he became a hero).

From a standpoint of creativity, these books had some of Marvel’s best talents during this era at the helm (and I’ll list them all below). You had some that had been around for a few years and some that were early in their careers (especially with Marvel). This mix led to so much excellent content not only in horror stories but every genre. It’s also worth to note that N’Kantu is the second supernatural character of color in Marvel (he predates Brother Voodoo by a month, but Blade was the month just before his first appearance). This was all part of a change in the business to include more characters and creators that were minorities.

Make no mistake, this title was Val Mayerik’s coming out party. Not only did he provide pencils (and inks for some issues), for most of these issues, but also plot assists for a few as well! He’ already had great success with Howard the Duck, and Man-Thing, but this really solidified him as an all around creator.

 

Issue 5 – cover by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia; written by Steve Gerber, art by Rich Buckler and Frank Chiaramonte, colors by Petra Goldberg, and letters by Jean Izzo.

 

Issue 7 – cover by Ron Wilson and John Romita; written by Steve Gerber, art by Val Mayerik, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by John Costanza.

 

Issue 8 – cover by Larry Lieber and Tom Palmer; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski.

 

Issue 9 – cover by Gil Kane and Al Milgrom; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik and Dan Adkins, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by Tom Orzechowski.

 

Issue 10 – cover by Gil Kane and Al Milgrom; scripted by Len Wein (plot by Isabella and Mayerik), art by Val Mayerik and Dan Adkins, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Artie Simek.

 

Issue 11 – cover by Frank Brunner; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik (plot assist as well), colors by Bill Mantlo, and letters by Alan Kupperberg.

 

Issue 12 – cover by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik (plot assist as well), and Klaus Janson, colors by Bill Mantlo, letters by Karen Mantlo.

 

Issue 13 – cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik (plot assist as well) and Dan Green, colors by Janice Cohen, letters by Karen Mantlo.

 

Issue 14 – cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer; written by John Warner, art by Val Mayerik (plot as well) and Al McWilliams, colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by John Costanza.

 

Issue 15 – cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer; written by John Warner, art by Tom Sutton, colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by John Costanza.

 

 

 

The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange (2010)

I’m finding it more difficult these days to find good comic books, but every once in a while, something very good turns up. In 2009/10, Marvel released “Super Issues” with 48 pages of black and white content that was all new material. In this specific issue, we get four stories that are excellent! Only one of the stories features a regular Marvel villain, the rest are supernatural. All are very different in appearance but the same in the Master of the Mystic arts is in them!

The first tale “The Cure” is one that involves a “doktor” that promises help through a kind of group therapy. In the end though, the dark lord Mephisto has something more sinister in mind! Written by Kieron Gillen and art by Frazer Irving.

Next we see an abusive relationship gone awry. “Melancholia” shows us a woman possessed by a demon. This one also has a very interesting ending, one that I’m not sure has ever been revisited. Written by Peter Milligan, art by Frank Brunner!

The third story (“So This is How it Feels”) is one of the most daring stories about the Doc. He’s become an alcoholic, and is wandering the city streets in search of his next bottle. He runs into one man who has a very special bottle, and it’s one that Stephen Strange will never forget! Written and dawn by Ted McKeever.

Last but certainly not least, Doctor Strange remembers a time when he was still under the tutelage of the Ancient One. Stephen ends up in the Dark Dimension and in battle with one of Dormammu’s minions. The story is mostly prose with one splash page and two small illustrations.  Written by Mike Carey with illustrations by Marcos Martin.

 

 

Giant Size Man-Thing 3 and 4, 1975

The character Man-Thing is not only one of the best from the Bronze Age, but also for all time in the horror genre. Yes, the Heap predates him (also  another character called “IT” from the pulp era in a sci-fi story by Theodore Sturgeon predates The Heap) but his staying power wasn’t so great for one reason or another. Manny has been around since the early 1970s, and still going to this day. A lot of horror characters (other than the public domain ones), fizzled out and all but disappeared after the  Bronze Age came to a close, but not Man-Thing. One of the reasons is because he had great creators behind him virtually all of the time.

You may ask yourself, what does a wizard, a viking, a barbarian, a high school full of kids, and a duck have in common? Nothing, and that’s the sheer brilliance of Steve Gerber (writer, both issues, the Man-Thing stories plus Howard the Duck). He can take these random things and deliver a great story using a swamp monster that can’t even speak. On the surface, most Man-Thing stories just appear as action/adventure stories, but there is usually an underlying message that is/was very relevant.

The artwork in these two books is nothing short of excellent. In issue three, you get Alfredo Alcala (pencils/inks), Petra Goldberg (colors), and Marcos Pelayo (letters) on the interiors. The cover is by Gil Kane (pencils) and Klaus Janson (inks, with alterations by John Romita). There are two back-ups that feature work by Paul Reinman, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, and Jack “King” Kirby!

The following issue contains more incredible work, starting with an amazing cover by Frank Brunner! Ed Hannigan, Ron Wilson, Frank Springer, Phil Rachelson, Tom Orzechowski, round out the creative team, and a back-up story by Gerber and Brunner to top it all off!

 

 

Giant-Size Man-Thing 5, 1975 “Hellcow!”

I know it’s heresy to say this being a big fan of Steve Gerber’s work, but I’m not really into Howard the Duck. That said, I do love horror stories, and most of them revolving around that character do fit into this genre. In this one for instance, we get to see Howard arrested, and in jail. The police are befuddled that a real duck is in their midst, and quite frankly have no idea what to do with him. The best part of the story lies with another character though, the Hellcow. Apparently, at a certain point in the life of Dracula, he swooped in and bit a cow. Normally, you don’t see animals come back as vampires but for some insane reason, this one does.

As I said above, Steve Gerber (writer) is nothing sort of fantastic. He can take the oddest of themes and turn them into gold. His work on The Defenders, Omega the Unknown, and several other books are all the proof that I need to prove that point. Another creator of this era that did incredible work, is artist, Frank Brunner (penciler). Even though he didn’t do a ton of work in comics, his impression on the industry is a lasting one, for sure. Tom Palmer (inks), Glynis Wein (colors), and Annette Kawecki (letters), finish off the creative team for this outstanding story! Of course, everyone knows of the fantastic work by Palmer, as he inked many books, and none more appreciated than his collaborations with Gene Colan in Tomb of Dracula!

 

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Marvel Premiere #13, 1974 “Time Doom”

Time marches on, and so does my look at Marvel Premiere! As the good Doctor is being drawn into a mad adventure through time, we see the emergence of a powerful mage named Cagliostro! This man is from the past seems to be so powerful, that Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo both seem to be jut pawns to him, but is he really who he claims to be? As the Doc and Baron Mordo attempt to convince Cagliostro that each of them is worthy of his attention, but he seemingly couldn’t care less!

Time travel can be one of those things that get terribly convoluted and quite frankly foolish. One man who has proved on more than one occasion that he’s up to the task of writing a good time travel story, is Steve Englehart. If this story isn’t enough, pick up a copy of the trade paperback, “Celestial Madonna” for another tale with the time-hopping Kang the Conqueror! Once again, Frank Brunner shows us how incredibly talented he is, by giving us another issue filled with fantasy and magic! Throw in the Crusty Bunkers (inks), John Costanza (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor), and you’ve got one fantastic creative team!

 

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