On this April Fool’s Day, there is no joking around here! My all time favorite artist is Gene “The Dean” Colan, so it’s a special occasion when I get a book with his work in it! Most think of Gene when they hear Tomb of Dracula, and rightly so, but his work on superheroes like Captain America and Iron Man was special, too. Most also probably think of Kirby when the subject of machinery and technology are discussed, but when Gene drew these types of images in Iron Man, he was excellent at it.
In this issue, it’s up to Tony Stark A.K.A. Iron Man, to stop some Cuban Commies and their newest weapon, The Crusher. A pumped up, nigh invulnerable guy that’s ready to take down the Golden Avenger! Can Iron man take down this make-shift Frankenstein Monster?
Written by Stan Lee, pencils by “Genial” Gene Colan (cover as well) inks by Frank Giacoia (cover as well), and letters by Sam Rosen!
The second tale in this book is one that features Captain America, and his old foe, The Red Skull! This trippy tale is by Lee (story), Gil Kane (pencils), Joe Sinnott (inks), and AL Kurzrok (letters).
Now that Halloween is over, Lets get back to some superhero comics! And why not start off with something from the King?!! When people talk about the return of the king, I don’t think of a Hobbit, I think of Jack “King” Kirby returning to Marvel in the mid-1970s. The man was a legend before he left Marvel for DC in 1970, so some may have written off his last works for Marvel Comics, thinking they’d be inferior to his previous works. Honestly, his Fantastic Four run is the stuff of legend, and co-creating the Avengers, X-Men, and many other characters/groups is obviously extremely important. In his return to marvel though, he was able to be in complete control of his work (writing, editing, penciling). This gave the world some iconic and trippy books that are also the stuff of legend!
In this issue, we see Steve Rogers get kidnapped by a terrorist group in Central America. The story is one that has a slight humanitarian angle to it (explained by Jack Kirby in the intro), but it’s basically a Cap issue where he shows good versus evil. Nothing to heady but definitely a good read that keeps your eyes on the paper, especially from his marvelous visuals. The inks are by “Fearless” Frank Giacoia, letters by Jim Novak, and colors by George Roussos.
This recent grab was…grabbed mostly for one reason- the appearance of Dr. Strange! Not that I don’t like the Hulk, I do, just more so in the pages of books like The Defenders, and The Avengers. I also love the “Beehive” and their insidious plots! In their second attempt at creating a god-like being, they unleash an even more powerful creature that initially tries to kill Dr. Strange! The old Doc has a difficult time with the man-made entity, but the Jade Giant is on his way to smash!
With a plot by editor, Len Wein, David Anthony Kraft (writer) gives us a story that is fairly simplistic but also solid in its delivery. No frills, just a slight mystery followed by straight up action! The art work by Herb Trimpe (pencils, the interiors and cover), Frank Giacoia (inks) and Mike Esposito (inks), give the reader a less rigid look than you typically get from Trimpe pencils (he usually has a more block-style, a la Kirby), and the inkers get credit for that, no doubt about it. Colors by Janice Cohen, and letters by Gaspar, round out the team!
I’ll be honest, Daredevil isn’t one of my favorite characters. I don’t dislike him, but he just doesn’t get me aroused. There are a couple of aspects about his life that I do like (his terrible love life, his relationship with Foggy), but overall, I find him slightly dull. There is always one reason to check out some DD though, and that’s because of Gene Colan. He was the first consistent artist on the book, lending his pencils to over 80 issues of that title (the 1964 original run). He penciled one of the most socially significant stories of the decade in Daredevil #47, “Brother Take My Hand.” In this reprint book we see issue #22 shown again. The story centers around three villains, the Tri-Man, The Gladiator, and The Masked Marauder! Now, granted these guys aren’t the cream of the crop in the villain category, but Colan makes them look very menacing!
At this point, DD was still in his infancy, so Stan Lee was writing the book (as he was contributing to most scripts back then (1966). Initially, the book had a couple of different legendary artist (Bill Everett, Wally Wood), but it wasn’t until Gene “The Dean” Colan took over on the book that it had the great consistency it lacked. The inks in this one were provided by two men that were absolute stalwarts in the Silver and Bronze Ages. “Fearless”Frank Giacoia and “Darlin'” Dick Ayers, were both excellent inkers that are legends in the industry. The colors were provided by Stan Goldberg, and letters by Sam Rosen.
Although Jack Kirby created Annihilus (FF Annual #6, 1968), there have a been a couple of other creative teams that did some really great work with the character. Case in point- Fantastic Four #140! In this issue, we see more schemes from the bug-like alien from the Negative Zone, plus his awesome origin. I’m not 100% sure if it had been shown in detail like this before, as I don’t have a copy of FF Annual #6, but if not, definitely grab a copy of this book for that cool story!
In the years shortly after Kirby left Marvel, you had a solid contingency of creators that were more than willing to step up to the plate, and give it a go. One of them, writer Gerry Conway, did just that, and more, when he took over books like Spider-Man, Thor, and this title as well (he didn’t write everything after Kirby left, but definitely had the longest run until Byrne came along later). I know most don’t think of Conway when they think FF writers, but believe me, they should. And lets face it, when you have an art team like “Big” John Buscema and “Joltin” Joe Sinnott in your corner, you’re on the path to success. Add on George Roussos (colorist), and John Costanza (letters), and the team is set! The book grabs your attention right away with a cover from “Riotous” Rich Buckler and “Fearless” Frank Giacoia!
On my last adventure to the comic shop, I had several issues in mind that I was going to grab. The only problem was that those issues were nowhere to be found. I did the only thing any red-blooded comic book collector would do…I bought some other great comics from my favorite age, the Bronze Age! It’s no secret that I love the writing of Steve Gerber, so when I saw the opportunity to grab some issues of Omega the Unknown, I knew I had to do it! In this issue, #4, (of short title run of ten issues) we see the enigmatic hero faces off against one of the most obscure, and wild villains of all time, a man named El Gato! This wild man can control felines, and when you really tick him off, he’ll summon a multitude of them to viciously attack his enemies!
Gerber (along with Skrenes), has always been known for writing well, but especially when the content is even more insane than the last. He portrays Omega the Unknown sort of like how Brian Bendis portrayed The Sentry. Very doe-eyed, and simple, but powerful as well. The flip side to the story is that we also get to focus on the boy named James-Michael Starling. This odd youth has two young lady friends, but doesn’t seem to realize what’s going on half of the time. The artwork by Jim Mooney (pencils) and Pablo Marcos (inks) is very good, and will definitely turn some heads. Colors by Phil Rachelson, with letters by Gaspar, Karen Mantlo, and Ray Holloway. The cover is by Howard Chaykin and Frank Giacoia!
Taking a quick break from my look at Marvel Premiere, let us now see what the Marvel cosmic universe holds! As the Bronze Age rolled on, it was quite clear that Marvel was going to keep the cosmic train rolling, and heroes such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Starlord, and of course, Captain Marvel! The creative minds behind this invigorating time were varying but exquisite nonetheless. In this particular story, we get to see not only the Kree man, Mar-Vell, but also Rick Jones, and the mysterious cosmic being the Stranger! One of the reasons I love this issue is because of the title. I’m a sucker for anything related to the old West, such as movies like “Tombstone” and the like. The scene in that film where the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral occurs is fantastic, so the idea of naming this story after that event is doubly as cool!
The writer of this issue is none other than “Stainless” Steve Englehart! His abilities for concocting incredible stories are well-known, and anyone out there that doesn’t own first hand evidence of that, pick up his Avengers stories, Captain America, Dr. Strange, etc. The pencils (and plot assist) are by the ever reliable Al Milgrom (cover as well, with inks by Alan Weiss). This guy is very underrated, and when you look at the pencils, inks, plots, scripts, etc., you have to give the man his due. The inks are by two consummate pros, and no one can deny that Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito are anything other than that. The colors are by Phil Rachelson and the letters by Marvel mainstay Tom Orzechowski!
As my look at Marvel Premiere rolls on, this next issue brings more intrigue with Shuma-Gorath, and the sorcerer supreme, Dr. Strange! After defeating three seemingly invincible foes recently, the Doc must now travel to Stonehenge, and then to some far out dimension to battle more horrors! This one has Clea, Wong, and others, as guest stars! The good Doctor must battle for his life, and soon, that of his aged mentor, as well!
Another issue written by Gardner Fox, this one starts out with one of the best lines ever in a comic book (Clea speaking)…”What is it that disturbs you, Stephen?” The artwork on the inside is a n incredible creative team. First, on pencils you have an artistic genius in P. Craig Russell. Next, you get inks by committee, with Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, and Dave Hunt! Those three gentleman are synonymous with the decade, and really do a great job on this issue. Jean Izzo was the letterer, and Mimi Gold, the colorist. One thing of note about the interiors is that the colors really pop in this issue. That was something that was outright awesome, and unseen before this time period. And if that wasn’t enough, you get another incredible cover by Mike Ploog!
In many ways, nothing screams the 1970’s more than Power Man and Iron Fist! A bad street dude with impenetrable skin and a millionaire playboy with an affection for martial arts, the perfect combination, no doubt. You get the martial arts craze, plus the blaxploitation angle as well. Quite an awesome mixture! In another great and timely scenario, we see a one-time villain, the Incinerator! Not to mention a quick glimpse of the awesome Thunderer, from Ku’n L’un! Any fan of the more recent Iron Fist series (Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja), knows that name and place very well.
The story, written by Ed Hannigan, is one that covers a lot of ground. By issues end though, you get a feeling that it’s complete. The penciler is an artist I’ve never even heard of, but Lee Elias does a pretty solid job. Inks by Bob Jenny and Ricardo Villamonte, letters by Jean Simek, and colors by F. Mouly, rounds out the creative team. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the totally awesome cover by Keith Pollard (pencils) and Frank Giacoia (inks)!
After a short (but glorious) run, Mike Ploog handed over the reigns to the Frankenstein title. ‘Big’ John Buscema was the man drafted to do the job (pencils), and did he ever impress! He didn’t do a ton of horror throughout his career, but when he did, it was impressive. I loved it when this title went off the reservation with its stories, because the sky was the limit. There could be a flashback story or one in present-day! This story involved an ancestor of the original Baron Frankenstein, and he wants to capture the Monster for a sinister reason that only he knows!
No matter who your favorite creative team is on this title, you have to love this issue! Gary Friedrich was the writer, and does a great job, as usual. His work on titles like this and Ghost Rider, are very solid. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you have an illustrating team like ‘Big’ John Buscema and inkers Frank Giacoia & Mike Esposito, either. The colorist was Petra Goldberg, the letters by John Costanza. Carefully edited by ‘Rascally’ Roy Thomas, and cover by Mr. Gil Kane (inks by Romita)!