Some of you may be wondering why I skipped issue #11. Easy answer is because it basically just reprints the origin of Dr. Strange, by Ditko and Lee. Not that the material isn’t great, but that’s not what this is about. There was a little bridging material, where the Doc went to the former dwelling of the Ancient One, and told his followers that the master is dead. In this issue, the Doc runs into a bunch of gypsies, and a huge Gargoyle! The run of Doc Strange in this title was coming to an end soon, but Englehart and Brunner sure didn’t slow down with the excitement!
For reasons unknown to me, Mike Friedrich scripted some of this issue, and he’s obviously a capable writer, and left a good imprint wherever he traveled. We know that Englehart and Brunner were just getting started with the good Doctor, and they would bring him to new heights, never before seen. No disrespect to Ditko/Lee or Thomas/Colan, but this team set the tone for decades to come, and along with John Costanza lettering, and the Crusty Bunkers inks, this issue is another gem of the run!
You know something, writing about Dr. Strange, and actually comics in general is one of the most edifying things I can think of to share. Why is that, some of you may ask? Well, explaining it isn’t easy, but I’ll try. You see, the vast array of subject matter, the varying intensity of the stories, the mind-blowing artwork, and just the overall satisfaction of reading these great stories and then sharing them with those who might never have read them or even thought about reading them, is quite a thrill. Over the years, people have had differing opinions on comic books (speaking of those who have never read them). Most seem to think they’re for adolescents or weirdos, and just never give them a fair shake. That is nothing short of foolish, and I would guarantee that anyone that considers themselves a fan of fiction (even though most stories draw parallels to everyday events from history), would be impressed by the more complex works of the industries greats.
OK, mild diatribe over. Let us now forge our way into the past, and see the death of one of the Marvel Universe’s great characters. If you go back and read the wondrous stories of the early years, and origin of Dr. Strange, by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, you’ll see just how much of an influence the Ancient One was on Strange. When you understand that, you’ll know how difficult it was for Strange to kill his mentor. Possessed by Shuma-Gorath, the vile creature that intends on killing Dr. Strange, and invading the universe that he and the Ancient One protect!
In only their second issue together, Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner show us that they mix incredibly well as a creative team. Their styles seem to be a match made in heaven. Englehart at this point had already written some great stories as only the third person to write the Avengers title (after Lee and Roy Thomas). He proved that he was more than worthy of taking the reigns of any book and either continuing the greatness or amplifying it. It’s true that these issues (as with a majority of the Bronze Age) are very trippy, and if you don’t appreciate that kind of material, you might not find these stories to your liking. With that said, these two creators (along with the Crusty Bunkers inking, John Costanza lettering, and Roy Thomas, editor) do their best to present a story that is chocked full of action, drama, and of course, magic!
As my look at Marvel Premiere marches on (specifically the Dr. Strange issues), this issue is a momentous one because of the arrival of the new creative team going forward. Until now, a few different creators were involved, and they did an admirable job, but now, the theme takes a bit of a turn, and the Doc must not only continue to fight against Shuma-Gorath and its minions, but also try to deal with the death of his mentor, the Ancient One!
When I interviewed “Stainless” Steve Englehart (writer) about his fabled run with this character, he mentioned some late night brainstorming sessions between he and artist Frank Brunner (pencils on the interiors and the cover). How they would meet and carefully concoct where they wanted things to go, and why. I’ve been a part of other interviews before where a duo worked closely together on a certain title (Dan Abnett, about his work Andy Lanning), and it’s always fun to hear about these jam sessions between two great minds! The inks on this issue are by Ernie Chan, and he’s definitely one of my favorites from the decade. John Costanza (letters) and Dave Hunt (colors) round out the team on this fabulous first collaboration between two of comic book’s definitive creators from the Bronze Age!
You know, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that there was a better age than that of the Bronze Age of comic books. The mix of personalities, both in the books, and within the ranks of the creative offices were outstanding. When you realize all of the creators from previous ages that were still around, plus add in all the new, exciting talent that was making their way into the industry, you were privileged to see an age of entertainment that hasn’t happened since, and probably never will. In this next issue of Marvel Premiere, you get to see the Doc get out of the frying pan and into the fire! Trying to fight a cult, and the entity they worship was bad, but when you have a situation like this issue presents, it just doesn’t get any crazier! The Doc has escaped the clutches of the cult of Sligguth, but now faces another being that is even a bigger challenge because it lives underwater!
The creative team is similar to the previous issue, in that Gardner Fox is still writing. But, the pencils are now by Frank Brunner! And if that wasn’t groovy enough, you get Sal Buscema on inks! Throw in Gaspar Saladino on letters, Roy Thomas editing, and another great cover by Mike Ploog, and you a recipe for awesomeness!
Anyone that’s read any of my work knows I frequently salivate over certain creators, characters, and books. One of these things being Dr. Strange. Not just anything that the Doc has been in, but specifically his solo series from 1974, and his appearances in Marvel Premiere (1972). In issue #4, we see some material taken from the mind of Robert E. Howard (Conan, Kull, Red Sonja, etc.). In this adventure, the Doc has just survived a grave encounter with Nightmare, and now faces an even more vile thereat. An old friend has come calling about a problem in the New England area, and once there, Dr. Strange will meet his doom!
The creative team on this one is certainly top-notch. The story was written by “Amiable” Archie Goodwin, with the plot and editing by “Rascally” Roy Thomas. The pencils by none other than “Bashful” Barry Windsor-Smith, inks by “Far Out” Frank Brunner! Letters by John Costanza, and cover by BWS and Tom Palmer! Enjoy this classic tale from the past of Dr. Strange!
After just a few issues, the Englehart/Brunner team lost one of its members. The rigors of monthly comics just didn’t suit the style of Frank Brunner, so he stepped aside from that chore (still doing awesome covers like this one). It just so happened that someone else with incredible artistic talents was ready and willing to take up the job! Gene “The Dean” Colan returned to the character that he had worked on before back in the late Silver Age, along with Roy Thomas, Tom Palmer, and others. Colan has done a lot of magnificent work in his lifetime, but other than Tomb of Dracula, I think Dr. Strange was his best work. The character just seemed to fit his style perfectly, and Colan really added a more macabre feeling to the book.
In this issue, the Sorcerer Supreme and Clea are beset by the unyielding powers of Umar and of course, the Dread Dormammu! This fantastic issue was written by Steve Englehart, pencils by ‘Gentleman’ Gene Colan, inks by Mr. Klaus Janson, letters by Sir Tom Orzechowski, colors by the indomitable Petra Goldberg, and edited by ‘Lively’ Len Wein! Enjoy!
As a tribute to my favorite Marvel character, I’ll be spotlighting Dr. Strange for the entire month of December! No matter who the creative team is, I’ll always give any title featuring the Doc a try! For me, he’s kind of like pizza – even when it’s not so great, it still isn’t half bad either! My personal favorite run is Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner in the pages of Marvel Premiere (1972), and this team led the charge for the character into his own solo series, starting in 1974. Honestly though, there is still great work being done with this character, as recent as 2012 (Doctor Strange: Season One, by Greg Pak (writer) and Emma Rios (artist), which is a slight re-imagining of his origin in an OGN).
Back to the Bronze Age though, and the true greatness of creativity in the medium, especially with characters in the magical or cosmic realms. It was a perfect time for these characters to take off, due to the creative minds that were entering the medium. This series begins with Steve Englehart writing, Frank Brunner pencils (and cover art), Dick Giordano inking, Glynis Wein on colors, John Costanza lettering, and Roy Thomas editing. This issue also brought us one of Dr. Strange’s most evil enemies, Silver Dagger! And now, for your enjoyment, let’s take a look at the wondrous world of the Sorcerer Supreme!
After being thoroughly exhausted from a weekend trip and now work, I’m playing catch-up now! Instead of posting about a single issue, I thought I’d just post a good-sized helping of a horror title to whet your appetites, and get you in the Halloween mood! The title “Chamber of Chills,” has always been one that I thought had good content, with either new stories or reprinted material from the Atlas Era. The first few issues featured new material from names like Thomas, Brunner, Russell, and so forth, but eventually the book went with just all reprint stories. Not that it was a bad thing mind you, because then you got to see work by greats like Heck, Ayers, Ditko, and early Perlin, as well!
These men were masters, one and all, and the legacy they’ve left for toady’s creators to follow is nothing short of extraordinary. Some are still with us, sadly others are not, but their incredible contributions live on in the pages of comic books just like the issues I’m about to showcase! Sit back, and relax, because you’re about to go on a journey into a very scary and chilling place!
As I wind down this look at some of the great horror titles in comics from the best decade of comic books (stop arguing, it is!), I wanted to give a wider variety than what I’ve posted so far in the previous three installments. There definitely must be contributions from Werewolf by Night, Monster of Frankenstein, Son of Satan, and a nod to the great black and white magazines, as well! Let us send this tribute out with a bang, and see books starring the likes of -Steve Gerber (RIP), Mike Ploog, Gil Kane (RIP), Sonny Trinidad (RIP), Billy Graham (RIP), Rico Rival, Don Perlin, Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Jim Steranko, Don McGregor, Tony Isabella, Jim Aparo (RIP), Carmine Infantino (RIP), Nick Cardy (RIP), Ross Andru (RIP), George Tuska (RIP), and more! Enjoy!
The 1974 volume of Dr. Strange is nothing short of fantastic. When you look at all the creative titans on that series (Steve Englehart, Frank Brunner, Marshall Rogers, Jim Starlin, Paul Smith, Sal Buscema, Gene Colan, etc.) it cannot be denied. There are three specific runs though that really highlighted what Doctor Strange is really all about. The magic, mayhem, his relationship with Clea, the insane and arcane forces that he must deal with that others do not even know about or can’t even comprehend. The first one of them that I want to spotlight is the Roger Stern & Tom Sutton issues (#27- 30, 33-35)! These two gentlemen really show the qualities that a creative team must be able to relay to the readers. Sutton’s artwork is nothing short of unbelievable, and paired with Stern, the two really were a great follow-up to the previous direction. Kudos must also be given to Ernie Chan, for his great job inking as well! So, now, let’s get ready to check out some of the best stories that these two guys put forth! Enjoy!