Spectacular Spider-Man 56, 1981 “The Peril…and the Pumpkin?”

As the 1970s were in full swing, Marvel really started pumping out titles, reprints, magazines, etc. Their biggest seller by this point was undoubtedly Spider-Man! He was the company flagship, and midway through the decade, he had a spinoff title, called Spectacular Spider-Man. It was a solid title most of the time, and worth picking up. It would sometimes introduce young talent that would alter become huge in the industry. Case in point, the cover by Frank Miller (and inks by Bob Wiacek). By 1980, Spidey had multiple titles, reprints, a live action TV show under his belt, you name it.

This story revolves around the second appearance of Jack O’Lantern, and his rampage in NYC (stemming from his first appearance in Machine Man 19…believe it or not!). The interior art and story is literally a murderers row of talent. The story is by Roger Stern, who wrote some excellent Spidey stories in the 1980s (along with Captain America, Dr. Strange, The Avengers etc.). The layouts are by the former EIC himself, Jim Shooter! The finished art is by a comic book mainstay and a very underrated guy, Jim Mooney. Colors by Bob Sharen and George Roussos, letters by Janice Chiang, and edited by another giant of the industry, Denny O’Neil!

 

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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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Marvel Two-in-One 51, 1979 “Full House–Dragons High!”

As the train rolls on, and Marvel Two-in-One is still at the forefront of my coconut, this issue that was a recent purchase is ready for the spotlight! Anytime you pair two superheros together, it’s a plus, but when you add several, then the odds have just increased substantially of the book catching the eye of a potential reader. Team books offer so much with all the varying personalities, potential strife, and vast array of powers, that you can’t get out of a solo book (although Doctor Strange is the best character and his ’74 series is the best of all time). In this marvelous tale, we see a few heroes gather for a night of poker, and companionship. We see Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, The Beast, Nick Fury, Jarvis, and of course, The Thing (also a minor character named Blake Tower, a District Attorney from the pages of Daredevil). Good action issue, but honestly, it’s all about the personal interactions between the heroes during some “down time.”

Peter Gillis is a name I know from the pages of Doctor Strange. He wrote a few stories in that mag, and did a fine job. In this book, he does an excellent job of weaving the action in with the quiet moments of the book. Also adding some great banter between the heroes as they spring into action! The art team of Frank Miller (pencils) and Bob McLeod (inks), really bring their “A” game on this book! One page in particular shows the heroes in shadow, in a smoke-filled room playing cards that is outstanding. No Bronze Age book would be complete without the letters of Tom Orzechowski and colors of Glynis Wein! And if that wasn’t enough, you get the legendary Roger Stern (another great name who has also written some very good Doc Strange stories!) as editor! And, last  but not least, you get a bonus as George Pérez and Joe Sinnott give us this fabulous cover!

 

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Marvel Team-Up Annual #4, 1981 “Power Play!”

Every good comic book has several elements in it. A solid story is the first thing, and a great art team is a big boost, but you absolutely must have at least one comedic moment within the pages. When Spider-Man is involved, the writer has plenty of opportunities to make this happen. Throw in Power Man and Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Moon Knight, and the story has now the chances of being not only humorous, but also have pathos, and of course, altruism. Now, take all of those heroes, and add the nefarious Purple Man and the Kingpin of crime! Having these characters in the same book is all but a guarantee it will be good (it helps that the book is from a great era of comic books as well).

The name Frank Miller means different things to different people. Some immediately think of Daredevil (count me as one of them), some of The Dark Knight Returns. He’s done so much to transform the industry, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to appreciate fully the impact for years to come. He wrote this hilarious story (which shows he can do more than just gritty), and also penciled the cover, along with Josef Rubinstein on inks!  The interior art is by the team of Herb Trimpe (pencils) and Mike Esposito (inks). This was a very good team that is very rarely talked about, and that is a bit of a travesty. We see Diana Albers letters, and George Roussos on colors, as was the case with many books from this era (which gave an immense amount of consistency). Editing was none other than Tom Defalco (check out his work with Ron Frenz on Thor)!

 

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The Spectacular Spider-Man #50, 1981 “Dilemma!”

As most comic book readers know, the Amazing Spider-Man was the flagship title, and almost always had the best stories. Every once in a while though, the sister title, Spectacular Spider-Man would churn out something cool. It had its share of solid creators working on it, and usually dealt with something a little more off-beat. This particular issue shows Spidey, as he’s wrapping up capturing the villain from the previous issue (the Smuggler), but his night gets a little crazier than he thought it would. After finally packing up the costume for one night, Parker decides to call Debra Whitman and ask her to accompany him to meet Aunt May’s new beau, Nathan Lubensky for dinner the following day. We see that Debra has some pretty deep feelings for Peter, but we know his mind is elsewhere. The story has some nice little moments, and is definitely one that you should seek out!

Anyone that lost track of Spidey after the tumultuous Silver Age is really missing out on some great stories. Everyone knows of the excellence of Gerry Conway, but a couple of other scribes did the old web-head justice as well, and one of them is certainly Roger Stern. He wrote this story along with a few others in this title, and later took over the main title as well, and really made strides in the life of Peter Parker and his surrounding cast (Mary Jane especially). The art team is a great one too, and we have “Jubilant” John Romita Jr. (pencils), and Jim “Madman” Mooney to thank for that. The colors were provided by Ben Sean, the letters by Jim Novak. Your eyes do not deceive you, that is a cover by “Lanky” Frank Miller and Joe “The Rube” Rubinstein!

 

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Rom Spaceknight #1, 1979. “Arrival”

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The few issues I own of this title are enough to make me want to hunt down the rest, for sure. Not only that, but also hunt down any other offerings from Bill Mantlo. This guy is so underrated, it’s comical. Just dig into his works, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Look at this awesome cover by Frank Miller and Josef Rubinstein! The interiors by Sal Buscema are quite impressive as well, so don’t think this is just a cool cover and fluff on the inside! Merry Christmas! Enjoy!