Creatures on the Loose 18, 1972 “The Fury of Phra!”

The titles of horror comics Marvel produced in the late Silver and early Bronze Age (and everyone else mainstream) were pretty tame, thanks (no thanks really) to the Comics Code Authority. Some good material for sure, just nothing cutting edge until the CCA was toned down. One of those titles was Tower of Shadows, but that was later changed to Creatures on the Loose. At first it served as just another vehicle to reprint older stories, but in issue sixteen, we saw a character called Gullivar Jones Warrior of Mars take over. The run of stories for this character didn’t last long, but they were pretty cool. Basically a clone of John Carter, Jones fought on other worlds against fantastical beasts and despots, often with no real agenda. Alas, the stories aren’t Earth-shattering, but the visuals definitely make them worth checking out.

Written by George Alec Effinger and Gerry Conway, with at by Ross Andru (pencils) and Sam Grainger (inks), and letters by Jean Izzo. There are also two back up stories in this issue, and both are reprints and quite good. The first one is “Under the Knife” has art by Tony DiPreta, while the second “What Lurks in the Mountain” is a Steve Ditko and Stan Lee production! And the cover to this one is by the artistic machine of Gil Kane (pencils) and Joe Sinnott (inks)!

 

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Dracula Lives! 3, 1973 “Prince of Darkness, City of Light!

Is there a more iconic horror figure than Dracula? Probably not, and after acquiring another issue of this spooky mag, it’s time to dive into it! October is here, and the horror mags from the Bronze Age are a great way to celebrate the season. Vampires, witches, a gargoyle, and Solomon Kane! A great issue for sure that brings a solid spotlight on Dracula not only in the Marvel universe, but also in contemporary fiction and film.

The Dracula story is one that dives into the history of the character in reference to the actual continuity of the Marvel Universe (written by Marv Wolfman, and art by ‘Big’ John Buscema and Syd Shores). A battle with another vampire, Nimrod, to be specific, who was the previous lord of the undead. The second story is a reprint from the 1950s. It involves a vampire and a slasher, à la Jack the Ripper (art by Larry Woromay). This story is followed by a great puff piece about Bela Lugosi with some fantastic photos from his films (written by Doug Moench).

Next we have what is probably the best piece of the book. A story about a chance encounter between Dracula and the sword wielding Puritan, Solomon Kane (written by Roy Thomas, with art by Alan Weiss and the Crusty Bunkers)! Another reprint from the Atlas era follows with an interesting take on the Shakespeare story Macbeth (art by C. A. Winter).  Finally, we get a super story about Dracula in Paris, and this time he must do battle with a stone gargoyle (written by Gerry Conway, and art by Alfonso Font)! There is also a neat story by Chris Claremont that features some love for Hammer studios! All of this is kicked off by a wonderful painted cover by Neal Adams!

 

Marvel Spotlight 4, 1972 “Island of the Damned!”

During the 1970s, there were a few different things that were hot commodities. In comics, one of them for sure was horror. Vampires, monsters, demons, mummies, witches, and of course, werewolves! In 1972, Marvel decided to create their own werewolf character that would be not only a creature of destruction, but one of tragedy as well. Jack Russell would turn twenty-one years old, and turn into a werewolf under a full moon from here on out.

Early on, the book centered around Jack trying to figure out why this happened to him. He very quickly realized that a certain book was involved, and that unless he finds The Darkhold, he may never get any answers. In what’s basically a werewolf dropped in the middle of the Island of Dr. Moreau, Jack is confronted by a strange island full of surprises, and by the end of the issue, he’ll be between a rock and a hard place.

In this early second age of horror for Marvel comics, Gerry Conway (writer) is one of the men that was tasked with writing these titles off and on (between his epic Spider-Man run and other superhero titles as well). Not to belittle Conway’s efforts, but Mike Ploog (cover and interior art) was outstanding during this period with his horror work. He had runs on this title/character, Monster of Frankenstein, Man-Thing, and Ghost Rider, and they were all exquisite. The creative team is rounded out by veteran Sam Rosen (letters).

*Note- there was also a lot of input on the early issues of the horror books by Writer/Editor Roy Thomas, and he definitely deserves credit as well.

 

 

The House of Mystery 224, 1974 “Sheer Fear!” 100 page Spectacular!

Do You Dare Enter the House of Mystery? Yes, I do! Sounds like a marriage proposal. This issue was one of those finds that would make any reader/collector get ecstatic. A good comic isn’t that difficult to find, but a great one that you can find at a bargain is getting more and more difficult as the years pass by.

Continuing a look at one of Dc comics’ best horror titles, this one is probably packed with the most talent of any book from that era. This exquisite horror anthology tells tales of a gym rat (Night Stalker in Slim City), a haunted house with an old hag (The House of Endless Years), a western werewolf (The Deadman’s Lucky Scarf), a boy sorcerer (The Reluctant Sorcerer), a magician that meets the Specter and the devil (Abraca-Doom), a problem with the mail (The One and Only Fully Guaranteed Super-Permanent 100%), a time travel tale with unintended consequences (The Gift that Wiped Out Time), a woman who has nightmares (Sheer Fear), A werewolf in Uncle Sam’s army (The Claws of Death), The Phantom Stranger has trouble with some elves (Mystery in Miniature), and finally a story that is picture perfect (Photo Finish).

The credits in this book are a murderers row of creators that are top-notch! Writing credits include- Dave Michelinie, Gerry Conway, Michael Fleisher, Howard Purcell, Denny O’Neil, Marv Wolfman, Sheldon Mayer, George Kashdan, John Broome, and Steve Skeates.

Artists include- Joe Orlando, Frank Robbins, Bill Draut, Alfredo Alcala, Howard Purcell, Berni Wrightson, Dick Dillin (w/Neal Adams inks), Mort Meskin (w/ George Roussos inks), Gerry Talaoc, Alex Niño, Frank Giacoia, and Mike Sekowsky.

 

 

 

 

Super-Team Family 12, 1977 “The Eternity Pursuit!”

There are certain tropes that can get me to be any comic. One at the top being an adventure in space! This tale stars Hawkman (Katar Hol), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and The Atom (Ray Palmer)! The three heroes have traversed the stars in search of the love of Ray’s life, Jean Loring. She disappeared after a situation with Supergirl, and Iris Allen, as they were abducted by T.O. Morrow and a living planet! She was flung across the galaxy, and her whereabouts are unknown. Luckily, The Atom is a genius and has invented a device to track her down. Aliens, spaceships, sword fights, and an underwater battle as well! This one issue has it all!

This awesome cover by Al Milgrom and Jack Abel is enough to get any Bronze Age collector to buy it. Action packed, full of heroes, and even though it’s possibly a bit too busy, the action is great! Inside the art team is composed of the terribly underrated Arvell Jones (pencils), inks by Bill Draut, Ben Oda (letters), and Jerry Serpe (colors)! Excellent splash pages, panels full of excitement and solid dialogue. Definitely pick this one up if you don’t already have it in your collection!

 

Spider-Man/Dr. Strange: The Way to Dusty Death

By the time the 1990s rolled around, Spider-Man was a household name for quite sometime, and Doctor Strange was also becoming a big part of the mainstream Marvel Universe. Some still consider him a fringe character, but after the 2016 film, that’s mostly changed. A team up with the likes of Spider-Man doesn’t hurt for some added exposure no doubt, but even though his name is in small letters on the cover, the Doc is front and center in this tale!

The story was co-plotted by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas (with Thomas scripting), and the artwork was a team effort with Michael Bair (pencils/inks), and Mark Texeira and Mark Beachum inking, Joe Rosen and Rick Parker lettering, and Bob Sharen colors. Bair has a huge list of credits but isn’t a household name. His work in this book is pretty good though. We all know that Conway and Thomas can plot/write a good story, and this one is no exception. No, it isn’t their finest hour, but it is a good yarn featuring the Doc and Spidey, the beautiful Melinda Morrison, and the psychotic mind of Xandu!

 

Thor 229″Where Darkness Dwells, Dwell I!” and 230 “The Sky Above, The Pits Below!” 1974

There are certain quirky characters and areas of the comic book universe that I feel I might be the only fan of, either because they’re so odd or maybe just not well-known. The Fear Lords are one such group! Probably the most popular member of this group is definitely the Dr. Strange nemesis, Nightmare! Another heavyweight that’s a member is D’Spayre (see Fear Lords), and he had a memorable appearance in Marvel Team-Up (during the heralded Claremont/Byrne run), and a few others as well. All that said, in these two issues of Thor, we get to see another member of that group, in the form of the Dweller-in-Darkness!

In these two issues, we see Thor, and his good buddy Hercules! The two heroes are trying to unravel a mystery about why people in New York are going absolutely crazy, with seemingly no explanation. There is murder, robberies, suicide, muggings, etc., the city is in mass hysteria. Hercules tries to help, but is assaulted by a dark, mysterious figure wearing a trench coat. Before he knows what’s going on, he’s dragged into the sewers by a horde of demons! He returns to the surface later, but the son of Zeus is visibly shaken, and in fear for his life!

The creative forces behind these two issues are incredible but in two ways. The cover of the first issue is by Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito. Both men were awesome but vastly underappreciated. Do yourself a favor, and go to one of the many database websites and check out these two creators. Again with the same theme of being underappreciated, we have Rich Buckler (interior pencils on both issues, and cover pencils on #230). After his recent passing (May 2017), I really felt terrible because I’d only met him one time, and was sorry I didn’t talk to him more often, as he seemed like a great guy. The interior inkers are an interesting contrast. In #229, we have Chic Stone, whose style is a bit cartoony over Buckler’s pencils (see the splash/first page). Not bad, but definitely not the best either. The next issue sees Joe Sinnott inking (cover and interiors), and you can clearly see the detail and high level this man brought to the industry. The Bronze Age stalwart, Gerry Conway, is the writer for both issues. He had a pretty long run on the title (#193-238), following Stan Lee. Linda Lessmann, Stan Goldberg, and John Costanza round out the creative team.

 

Adventure Into Fear 10, 1972 “Cry Monster”

After getting an incredible deal on this comic, I figured I’d share this gem from the Bronze Age. This book contains the fourth appearance of the muck monster from the Florida Everglades! In this early appearance, Manny is caring for a baby that some animal threw over a bridge! After taking the child to a doctor’s home, he seeks revenge against the heartless man. We also get a quick two page recap of Manny’s origin. Gerry Conway (writer), and the art team of Howard Chaykin and Gray Morrow (cover art by Morrow as well) bring us this gruesome tale!

There are also two awesome back-up stories in this one too! “The Spell of the Sea Witch” (Allyn Brodsky writer, art by Jack Katz and Bill Everett!) is a tale about a crook that commandeers a boat that two young lovers are aboard. They run into some ghost pirates and then things really get crazy! Then we take a trip down to Davey Jones’ Locker, brought to you by Stan Lee and Don Heck!

 

Thor 198, 1972 “And Odin Dies!”

After the departure of Jack Kirby (in 1970), Marvel comics needed someone to step in and fill the gigantic shoes of that legend. Not that anyone can do what Kirby did exactly, but to keep the titles rolling on pace, and with solid work. The Fantastic Four and Thor were books that Kirby made into gold with his style and powerful pencils, not to mention his imagination. With the source material already in place, they turned to “Big” John Buscema to take over the artistic duties.

In this issue, we see the return of the mighty Mangog! One of the few beings that has actually rivaled Thor in power, and strength (and making bold statements!). Throw in the Warriors Three, the Grand Vizier, and just about every other inhabitant of noble Asgard, and you’ve got a story to remember! A slam-bang action issue that features all the characters you know and love from this corner of the Marvel Universe!

Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by “Big” John Buscema, inks by Vince Colletta, John Costanza on letters, and edited by Stan Lee!

 

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Marvel Team-Up 12, 1973 “Wolf at Bay!”

IS there a video montage out there with Werewolf by Night panels while Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is playing? If not, could someone get on that asap please? Alright, so October is one of my favorite times of year, simply because it reinvigorates my love of horror comics and gives me renewed energy to blog about them. One of the best from the Bronze Age is most definitely Werewolf by Night. Most of that is thanks to Doug Moench and Don Perlin, but there is also Mike Ploog and a few others that did the hairy side of Jack Russell justice over time.

In this fantastic issue, we see Werewolf by Night and Spider-Man in San Francisco, as the two super-powered characters go at it! Jack is under the sway of Moondark (his first appearance), and maybe with Spidey’s help, he can shake it! Hopefully they can accomplish this before the Werewolf tears Spidey into ribbons!

The credits for this issue are a who’s who from the Bronze Age! Scripted by Len Wein, plot by Gerry Conway, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Don Perlin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Charlotte Jetter, and cover by Gil Kane (pencils) and John Romita (inks)!

 

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