I love kooky villains (as should we all!). One near the top for sure is M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing). This character is nothing short of brilliant, and not just because the visual is so unique. His power set, origin, and yes, his look make him an incredibly cool villain. He’s barely used it seems and when he is, it’s usually not to his full potential.
In this issue, we see old Shell-head trying to track down MODOK but not having much success. He then enlists the help of The Champions! Can they find MODOK and A.I.M., or will time run out for them and the world! Sea monsters, men in Beekeeper outfits, a muscle-bound Friar, and a giant headed, telepathic villain complete with lasers and rockets. Next time you’re diving into the back issue bins, seek this one out! Written by Bill Mantlo, art by George Tuska and Don Perlin, colors by Phil Rachelson, John Costanza on letters, and Archie Goodwin editing!
In the July 1974 issue of Creatures on the Loose, we saw a switch from the Sword and Sandal genre, starring “Thongor, Warrior of Lost Lemuria” to the horror genre starring the Man-Wolf! After the death of Gwen Stacey (and Norman Osborn), John Jameson was brought back into the Spider-realm. Marvel put him in Marvel Premiere as well for a short story-line, but once the horror craze finally died off, so did Wolfy’s career for quite some time. In these issues, we see him battling Simon Stroud, the police, Kraven the Hunter, and his own father, J. Jonah Jameson! Covers by Gil Kane, John Romita, and Rich Buckler (inks by Klaus Janson), respectively.
The Bronze Age was an age of growing up for some preexisting characters, and the introduction of some new ones that were not only part of the zeitgeist of the times, but ones that would last a very long time afterward. One of these characters is the Ghost Rider! Opinions vary on who created what exactly, but we know that Mike Ploog, Gary Friedrich, and Roy Thomas were involved. Over the decades, there have been a few different people to carry the mantle of the Ghost Rider, but honestly, none are better than the original, Johnny Blaze.
In this issue, we see Blaze and his alter-ego battle dolphin killers…and a great white shark! Yes, shortly after the frenzy that was Jaws (summer of 1975), Bill Mantlo (writer), George Tuska (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Janice Cohen (colors), and Karen Mantlo (letters), gave us the awesomeness of Ghost Rider fighting Jaws (edited by Marv Wolfman, cover by Bob Brown and Dave Cockrum)!
Being a huge fan of Ray Harryhausen, I’m always delighted to see a comic book that was influenced by work of his. Well, there were at least books I know of that were straight up adaptations of his stop-motion work. One is Marvel Spotlight 25, and the other two are Worlds Unknown 7 & 8! Both of these comics showcase a film “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,” condensed, of course. We see Sinbad and his crew battle mythical monsters, evil sorcerers, and the like!
Len Wein (writer) is a guy who’s probably most known for being a part of resurrecting the X-Men franchise, and rightly so, but if you look at the entire body of work, he deserves much more credit. It doesn’t take a writing wizard to adapt a movie into a comic book, Ill give you that, but seeing his name in the credits of any book puts my mind at ease. The art team of George Tuska (interior pencils and cover pencils to issue 7) and Vince Colletta (inks- interiors and covers) is one that some might malign. I understand when people complain about Colletta rushing jobs and putting out substandard work. He has done some good work though, and I think issues like these two prove it. Glynis Wein (colors) and John Costanza (letters) both were always very solid and deserve kudos. On issue number eight, we get a cover by one of the masters of the comic book industry, Gil Kane!
For some, reprints are of no interest. But, for those without deep pockets or a life expectancy of 175, they are a welcomed addition to a collection. One example for sure, is the work on Strange Tales by Steve Ditko. Those issues are tough to find intact at a decent price. Thanks to Marvel’s Essentials, though, I solved that problem. After Ditko left the title (and Marvel), there was a cavalcade of creators thrown on the title. Not a lack of effort or good content, just not a lot of continuity throughout. The one and only annual for the series (the 1974 series), was a bunch of reprints from the era just after Ditko left the book. You do get some cool stories of the Doc fighting monsters, a mad scientist, and his killer robot!
The issues in this annual are mostly written by Jim Lawrence (script on all but the last), a man I know very little about, to be honest. After searching his name, I saw that he did some James Bond strips, and a few things for Marvel in the 1970’s. Not bad scripts, but not up to the standard set forth by the other headliners of the times. Dan Adkins (pencils, inks on one chapter, and plots) gave us some solid pencils, and inked one issue that George Tuska filled in for him as well. The last two stories were written by Denny O’Neil, and we all know about his writing chops (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Amazing Spider-Man, etc.)! As if all these names were not enough, you still get that awesome cover by none other than Gil Kane!
After just purchasing this book recently (Baltimore Comic Con 2014), I felt compelled to spotlight this great book! These types of books have always caught my eye, and will always get my money, as well. When you have great characters like Namor and Dr. Doom in a book, it’s difficult to not have a good story, or at least enough crazy action and declarative statements on every other panel! Let’s face it, Doom and Namor have enough hot air between the two of them to float a balloon across the planet. But, that’s why we love them, isn’t it?
As if dealing with Doom isn’t bad enough, Namor must contend with his perennial foes Attuma and Tiger Shark as well! There’s also a third person to contend with too, as Dr. Dorcas is in the mix…wow, what a name for a villain. The story is broken into two “chapters”, with a different set of artists on the second half, but you can’t go wrong with either team to be honest. Written by Tony Isabella, pencils (chapter one) by George Tuska & Bill Everett, inks by Fed Kida, colors by I. Vartanoff, and letters by I. Watanabe. The second chapter was penciled by George Evans, and inked by Frank Springer, and the rest of the same crew from the first chapter to round out the rest of the team! There are some fantastic splash pages in this book, so get ready to be aroused!
At a recent con (Boston Comic Con – 2014), I grabbed a few comics at a bargain, and one of them happened to be an issue of the reprint series, Beware! This particular issue reprints some Golden Age material from Atlas Comics (Marvel). Some pre-code stories by greats like George Tuska, Joe Maneely, and Al Luster! The cover by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott really sets the tone for the book!
Each story contained within has a different angle, but it doesn’t interrupt the flow from front cover to back. I really enjoy these types of books, and another good one is from Yoe Books (IDW distributing), called “Haunted Horror“. It’s a great reprint series showcasing some of the early horror work from some of the best talent of that period, and quite frankly, of all time. Give it a look if you can spare the time. In the meantime, take a peek at some of the awesome work in this fantastic book!
Imperius Rex! The Savage Sub-Mariner is punching Man-Fish in the face! What a great cover by Mr. Gil Kane (RIP)! And to make matters worse, Man-Fish is pulling on some poor bikini-clad girl’s ponytail! Man, I miss the 1970’s. Everything nowadays is so grim and gritty, with no real fun to any of the stories. When Marvel was just beginning to scratch the surface of greatness back in the 1960’s, greats like Kirby, Romita, Heck, and Ditko, were paving incredible roads for later talents to follow. What did ensue was the Bronze Age of comics books, which gave us not only more relevant stories from a social angle, but also the weird and wonderful imaginations of a new list of incredibly gifted writers and artists that took what came before and built upon it substantially.
In this specific issue, we get a script from Marv Wolfman, pencils from George Tuska, inks by Vince Colletta, Colors by Stan Goldberg, and letters by John Costanza! Don’t forget the cover by the incomparable Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia either! This book is a great example of the awesome comics coming out at the time. There would only be two more issues of Subby after this until his revival in the Thomas & Buckler series in 1988 (another good series). Subby was a mainstay in FF and the Avengers as well though for some time. In closing, remember kids, when all else fails, if you’re being attacked by sharks, just punch them in the face!
The name George Tuska (RIP) doesn’t stand out for a lot of people, but this guy had quite a career beginning way back in the Golden Age. Titles such as “Crime Does Not Pay” and “Captain Marvel Adventures“, were home to hard-working guys like George. He really is the textbook definition of a journeyman. He has a ton of credits, but personally, I don’t own many of his books. That being said, he’s made an impression on me, and I think he deserves to get some love! So, here’s to you, George, thanks for all the work you put in over the years in the world of comic books!