Captain America 253, 1981 “The Ghosts of Greymoor Castle!”

Admittedly, Captain America probably isn’t the best comic book to spotlight in the month of October amidst the ghosts and goblins running amok, but this story (and a few others) is a bit of an exception. Set in northern England, Cap returns to a place that he and his old partner Bucky fought against the Germans many years ago in WWII. This little excursion is taking place on the heels of Cap having a hair-raising experience with his old foe, Baron Blood (Roger Stern and John Byrne). Now he must face an old castle full of memories, and ghoulish threats!

This one is written by Bill Mantlo (Incredible Hulk, ROM, The Micronauts), and he has a group of fans (including me) that just adore his work. ROM and The Hulk specifically are very good works of his to read, and they can usually be found at fair prices anywhere. The artwork features the always ready to produce, Gene Colan (pencils). Overall the book is pretty even but there were three inkers on this issue (late on the deadline?), so things do get noticeably different in spots. Dave Simons, Al Milgrom, and Frank Giacoia shared the duties. Letters by Jim Novak, colors by Bob Sharen, and edited by Jim Salicrup! The best is for last, as this marvelous, excellent cover is by none other than Marie Severin!

 

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The Tomb of Dracula 25, 1974 “Night of the Blood Stalker!”

After spotlighting generic vampires, Morbius multiple times, and Dracula in a special issue and magazines, I thought it was well past time to dive into Marvel’s best horror comic of the decade (and all time), The Tomb of Dracula! Most probably know this villain from either the Universal film (starring Bela Lugosi), or the Hammer Studio films (starring the insanely menacing Christopher Lee as the count). The character has been embedded in our culture for a very long time (thanks to Bram Stoker). By the time the 1970s rolled around, and the comics code was loosened, it was high time for this horror giant to get his own series! This issue is a favorite of mine, as it features the first appearance of vampire detective Hannibal King, and my favorite panel of the series of all time (final image at the bottom).

Marv Wolfman (writer) has gone on record saying he really had no interest in writing this book, but as fortune would have it, he did anyway (starting with issue #7). He and artist Gene Colan (pencils) would work very close together on this title, and for seventy issues, they knocked it out of the park. Another reason the book succeeded was inker Tom Palmer. Colan has very intricate pencils, and quite a few inkers have had a tough time not drowning the pencils out, but Palmer was perfect for the job. Palmer also colored quite a few issues as well (including this one), and again you get a quality and consistency from a tight-knit team working hand in hand. The letters were provided by John Costanza. A lot of the covers were provided by the comic book giant, Gil Kane (Palmer on inks here as well). Kane’s incredible covers carried Marvel through most of the decade, and it just adds to his enormous breadth of work.

 

 

Marvel Comics Giant-Size Chillers!

And now, with Halloween right around the corner, let the horror comics binge begin! A few months back, I spotlighted issue one of this series, and recently completed the (extremely short) series. These over-stuffed comics have so much to offer. You get new material plus reprints of Silver Age horror stories as well (in the first and second issues anyway, and the third having all reprints but from other Bronze Age books). The fantastic covers were also a treat, as they showcased some of the tremendous talent of the Bronze Age.

The new material is a bit more graphic than the reprints, due to the fact that the reprints are from the comics code era. But don’t fret, they are definitely worth reading, especially when coupled with the new material. The stories range from Lovecraftian beasts, cryptids, fortune tellers, gargoyles, etc.

The list of creators that had a hand in these three issues is astounding. A long list it may be, but each person is going to be listed starting with the first issue and ending with the third. Seek these issues out at the first opportunity, as they will certainly become more and more scarce!

Issue #1 – cover by Larry Lieber (Romita alterations) and Mike Esposito; interior work by Tony Isabella, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, Jean Izzo, Carl Wessler, Alfredo Alcala, Larry Lieber, Miguel Ripoll Guadayol, Dave Hunt, Doug Moench, Win Mortimer, Charlotte Jetter, Ralph Alphonso, Adolfo Buylla, Paul Reinman, Dave Gibbons, Dick Ayers, Mike Lombo, Stan Lee, and George Roussos.

Issue #2 – cover by Gil Kane and John Romita; interior work by Linda Fite, Ron Wilson, Jack Abel, Janice Cohen, June Braverman, Carl Pfeufer, Tom Orzechowski, Don McGregor, Paul Reinman, Ed Winarski, Stan Lee, Al Eadeh, Bill Everett, Don Heck, Artie Simek, Manny Stallman, John Forte , and Carl Burgos.

Issue #3 – cover by Ed Hannigan and Bernie Wrightson (letters by Danny Crespi) interior work by Alfredo Alcala, Len Wein, Marie Severin, Dan Adkins, Gaspar Saladino, Bernie Wrightson, Roy Thomas, Artie Simek, Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, Barry Windsor-Smith, Sam Rosen, Allyn Brodsky, Jack Katz, Gene Colan, Mike Esposito, Marie Severin, Jean Simek, Jack Kirby, John Verpoorten, Denny O’Neil, Tom Sutton, and Marv Wolfman.

 

 

 

 

Giant-Size Chillers 1, 1975

You know, Treasury Editions aside, there’s no better format than the Giant Size comic books of the 1970s. From Superheroes to horror, they were great, and really packed a wallop as far as content. Yeah a good portion of the time they were reprints, but in this day and age the original material  they show is extremely pricey and every-day Joes just can’t afford them. Probably the most important editions of this title were in The Avengers, where it was new material and tied into a huge arc (The Celestial Madonna).

Instead of making a joke about a character that was also given the Giant Size treatment, let us journey into this book, Giant-Size Chillers 1, from 1975. With only two reprinted stories it showcases some oddities, traditional stories, and some definite re-hashed work as well. With work from Tony Isabella, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, Carl Wessler, Alfredo Alcala, Larry Lieber, Miguel Ripoll Guadayol, Doug Moench, Win Mortimer, Ralph AlphonsoAdolfo Buylla, Paul Reinman, Dave Gibbons, Dick Ayers, Mike Lombo, George Roussos, Mike Esposito, and John Romita.

 

Monsters Unleashed 4, 1973

Slowly but surely I’m making the effort to collect all of Marvel’s magazines from the 1970s. They’re getting steep in price overall, but if you look closely, you can usually find them here or there in decent shape for a bargain. When I saw the chance to pick up this issue for a reasonable price, I grabbed it immediately. A cover with a werewolf, and advertising the Frankenstein Monster is awesome, and high on my buy list for sure.

In this awesome mag, you get a great little one page story inside the front cover by Tony “The Tiger” Isabella and Pablo Marcos! Next we switch gears and see the ongoing story (chapter two) of a tale involving the Frankenstein Monster, by “Groovy” Gary Friedrich and “Big” John Buscema! The story and artwork are absolutely incredible in that one! Next, the book provides a reprint of a story called “The Hands (Adventures into Terror 14, 1951).” The writer is unknown, but the artwork is by Gene “The Dean” Colan!  An interesting little 4 page story that has a twist ending. A prose story called “Our Martian Heritage” by Chris (Mr. X-Men) Claremont that has some photos accompanying it (most notably from Invasion of the Saucer Men- 1957). A new tale about Gullivar Jones Warrior of Mars (continuing from the pages of Creatures on the Loose), is nothing short of short of awesome. Brought to you by Tony Isabella and  “Dynamic” Dave Cockrum! A zombified story by Steve “Baby” Gerber and Pablo Marcos keeps the book rolling, and then we get another Atlas Age reprint (The Killers- Adventures into Weird Worlds 10, 1952), artist unknown and art by Bernie Krigstein! And finally, we see a gorgeous story by “Dapper” Don Perlin and Chris Claremont! A werewolf story that is one of the most (if not the most) beautifully penciled stories by Perlin I’ve ever seen! Cover by Albert Pujolar!

 

Doctor Strange Master of the Mystic Arts!

As we march forward to another season of Marvel movies (Black Panther is here, and The Avengers in May, followed by Ant-Man and Wasp), it’s a good time to put the spotlight on my favorite sorcerer, Dr. Strange! It seems he’ll be quite a big part of The Avengers film (and hopefully others!), and you never know what time period of the comics the creative team will pluck ideas from to insert in the films. One thing is for sure, in the late 1960s, Marvel released volume one of the good Doctor’s stand-alone series (after Strange Tales concluded), and it was fantastic!

Roy Thomas (writer) had already been at Marvel for a couple of years, and proved himself on the X-Men, The Avengers, and so on. His work here is just as powerful as it was on those titles. Artistically, the first few issues were drawn by Dan Adkins. Not a household name for those on the outside looking in at comics, but for those on the inside, he’s known as an excellent artist. He was then followed by Gene “The Dean” Colan (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks)! These two gentlemen would go on to do many great issues together on several different titles (most notably The Tomb of Dracula).

 

Captain America – Top 5 Creative Teams

The character Captain America is not only the greatest superhero to ever don the red, white, and blue, but also the only hero from the Golden Age strictly born out of patriotism that survives today. That alone says something about the strength of the character, and in a small way about patriotism in general. That being said, Captain America has had some very thought-provoking story lines over the years, and a select few men have been responsible! Here are my choices for the five best of all time!

 

 

5. Joe Simon (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

There are two reasons I have these gentleman on this list (and where). First, I don’t believe you can have a list like this without the creators of the character. Not having read very much material from the Golden Age is why this team isn’t higher on the list. The fact that these men created one of the most iconic characters ever, but that they had him punching the ultimate personification of evil (Adolph Hitler) in the face is absolutely fantastic.

 

4. Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

In his second run with Cap, Kirby really cranked up the visual feasts. He took Cap to new heights that haven’t been reached again and probably never will be. The stories in this era (Silver Age in Tales of Suspense, and then his own title) had more intrigue and spy material than straight up war angles, and that fit perfectly with the Cold War going on at the time.

 

 

3. Roger Stern (writer) and John Byrne (artist)

If you sit back and think how great this run was and that it only encompassed nine issues, that alone tells you how great it truly was to read. Any creative team that can produce a serious story about Cap considering running for the presidency and you believe it, has to be near the top of any list. And just the creepy Baron Blood issues alone are incredibly good!

 

2. Ed Brubaker (writer) and Steve Epting (artist)

To say that Captain America (and a lot of the Marvel Universe) needed updating after the turn of the century is an understatement. The shot in the arm was delivered by this awesome team. And yes, this is a list of Cap creative teams, but this team bringing back Bucky, and turning him into Steve’s worst nightmare was pure genius. No one has come close to this level of writing since.

 

1. Steve Englehart (writer) and Sal Buscema (artist)

From issue #153-181 (with almost no interruptions), Steve and Sal gave the readers everything they could possibly want. The political intrigue, racial bigotry, disturbing truths about a government he trusted, etc. The best part though, was Cap’s friendship with the Falcon. He and Sam Wilson grew to be best of friends, and an awesome crime fighting team! The villains were a big part of this run as well- Dr. Faustus, the 1950s Cap and Bucky (click here for details), Red Skull, Yellow Claw, Serpent Squad, Baron Zemo, Moonstone, and more! All the while having guest stars like the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., Black Panther, Iron Man, you name it. This creative team pulled out all the stops (even Cap quitting!), and that is why they are number one!

 

 

Honorable mentions; first, to the team of Jack Kirby (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)! His return to Marvel in the mid-1970s ushered in some incredible trippy stories starring Cap, and even if the stories don’t grab you, the mind-numbing artwork will! Also, Stan Lee (writer) and Gene Colan (artist). Awesome run with more action than you can ever want, and a signature art style that is absolutely unique!

 

Daredevil 124, 1975 “In The Coils of The Copperhead!”

Back again, and this time I have another shot of Daredevil for you! The silly villain this time around is called “Copperhead.” It seems that Daredevil has competition out there in the form of a person imitating a character from a pulp book from the 1930s. This man has no regard for life (sort of like the Punisher), and lays down judgement on wrongdoers all over the city. It’s up to Mr. Murdoch to try to stop this renegade, if he can! Copperhead is no joke…OK, he is but he does have poison tipped darts that he shoots out of his gun, and a diamond hard mask to protect his identity! Plus, we get some political drama with Foggy as well in this issue!

I’m not quite sure why, but the issue is written by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman (he was the steady writer around this time, and Wein the editor). No matter though, as both guys gives us the straight forward dialogue you came to expect from this title in the Bronze Age. The artistic team is one that I’m torn over. Gene Colan (pencils) is without a doubt my favorite penciler of all time. He’s so uniquely talented, you’ve got to love the guy’s work. The inks are provided by Klaus Janson. His work with Frank Miller on Daredevil in the 1980s is fantastic, as is his solo work. He just doesn’t seem like the best match for Colan’s pencils. The colors are provided by Michele Wolfman, and the letters by Joe Rosen. We also get a great cover by the team of Gil Kane (pencils) and Frank Giacoia (inks)!

 

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Doctor Strange 12, 1976 “Final Curtain!”

It’s no secret that Doctor Strange is my favorite character. His 1974 series is undoubtedly one of the most underrated series of all time. From start to finish it’s incredible. And let’s be honest, with creators like Steve Englehart, Gene Colan, Roger Stern, Jim Starlin, Tom Sutton, Marv Wolfman, Rudy Nebres, Paul Smith (and more!), you can’t go wrong! This particular issue deals with the Doc, as he’s about to be in conflict with Eternity himself, for the soul of his recently deceased master, the Ancient One! A flashback of the insidious Baron Mordo, and the Doc and Clea see the world die!

As the creative tag-team of Steve Englehart (writer) and Gene Colan (pencils) was beginning to wind down, one might think that the material might suffer, but this is not so. Both men brought their “A” game until the end of the run. It’s to be expected though, as both were consummate pros throughout their comic book careers. Another link in the awesome creative chain, is Tom Palmer (inks, colors). His work alongside Colan is legendary, even if you only look at this title or Tomb of Dracula. Yet another name synonymous with Bronze Age royalty is Tom Orzechowski (letters). He was a constant at Marvel and definitely earned his place among these other greats with his diligence. Throw in Marv Wolfman (editor), and the credits are full of amazing creators that gave their best!

 

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The Spider: Scavengers of The Slaughtered Sacrifices (2002)

When you have a character that has been around since 1933, it’s kind of double-edged sword if you try to modernize him. Most creators don’t though, and that’s a good thing. Sure you might miss out on the youth that doesn’t care about pulp characters, but you will hit your target demographic. The character in this story is called The Spider. He’s Richard Wentworth, a rich, playboy type guy, that uses his wealth to help him in his fight against injustice…no, not Batman, The Spider! When Harry Steeger created this character, the only other big time pulp characters were basically The Phantom, and The Spirit. Steeger did a good job at using the momentum those characters had generated, but The Spider definitely stood out from them.

Fast forward to the year 2012, Dynamite Entertainment put out some promotional material stating a new series starring this character was soon to be published. It definitely piqued my interest, and the series paid off with great talent (David Liss, Colton Worley, Alex Ross, Francesco Francavilla, and others), that brought intriguing stories, incredible artwork, and quite frankly, a breath of fresh air to the medium.

This introduction got me thinking that perhaps there was more material that I could feast upon? The first book I encountered was an immediate buy. Why? Because when I saw Don McGregor (writer) and Gene Colan (art) at the top of the book (The Spider: Scavengers of the Slaughtered Sacrifices – 2002 Vanguard), that’s all it took. I knew nothing about the story but had faith in Don’s reputation, and of course, it didn’t hurt that my favorite artist was also one of the creators either. If you like crime, action, Noir, and a twist of the macabre, then this is a book you must seek out right away. It’s like mashing Tomb of Dracula and Batman meets Ghost Rider. No joke, it’s that cool.

 

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