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!
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)!
Right smack in the middle of the horror explosion of the 1970’s, Marvel began to more regularly put its macabre characters into the mainstream superhero books as well. Of course, there are good points and bad points about saturating books with certain characters, but I’ve always come down on the side of enjoying it. Honestly, how can you not like a book that pits Spidey against Man-Wolf and Morbius? You don’t get much of the classic conflict with Morbius in this issue (his original problem of not wanting to be a monster, you know a tortured soul type). We do however get that with John Jameson, as he’s been recovering from his bout with Spidey and his inner conflict.
At this point, Gerry Conway (writer) was firing on all cylinders. Whether it was Spidey or any other book, he was consistently churning out good scripts for Marvel and DC comics during the Bronze Age. There aren’t many art teams that can supersede Gil Kane (pencils) and Mike Esposito (inks). These two creators worked great together, and you can really see their willingness to put forth their very best efforts. John Costanza (letters), Linda Lessmann (colors), and Roy Thomas (editor) round out the creative team (John Romita inking the Gil Kane pencils on the cover)!
After Jack Kirby left Marvel, I’m sure there were some that were very despondent, both within Marvel, and fans. One of the books he left, was Thor. Most would probably say that the Fantastic Four or Captain America are his crowning achievements, but for me, I think Thor is right up there with anything he ever gave us during his time at Marvel Comics. So, the stage is set, Kirby is gone, and who can even possibly try to fill his shoes? Enter John Buscema! The man’s work is well documented, and for all the greats of his time, he stands tall, right there among them. In this issue, we see Odin brought back to life with the help of Hela! We also get a treat, and see the god of war, Pluto, as he battles Thor!
As I’ve already pointed out, this issue is a good one, and basically, you have two elements driving that fact. First is the great creative team of Gerry Conway (writer), “Big” John Buscema (pencils), Jim Mooney (inks), Artie Simek (letters), Gil Kane (cover pencils), and Vince Colletta (cover inks)! The second is the awesome continuity that had been put into place by Lee and Kirby, up until this point in the character’s history. Throw those things together, and you get a great title!
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!
In the early 1970’s, Marvel dove head-first into the black and white magazine market. Of course, that medium was already publishing fantastic stories thanks to the creators at Warren Publishing. Some of those creators would leave and join Marvel Comics, and help them ascend and to produce some of the best mags of the decade. One of the best being Savage Tales! Issue one was released in 1971, but it didn’t exactly fly off the stands. The next issue wasn’t released for two years, but when it hit, the market was in a different place, and it sold well. The floodgates were opened, and Marvel reaped the benefits.
Savage Tales was a good mix of action, adventure, sword and sorcery, and even horror. This specific issue gives us a Ka-Zar story (“Requiem for a Haunted Man”), and the creative team on that one is utterly fantastic. Gerry Conway (writer) and Russ Heath (pencils) are joined by the studio known as the Crusty Bunkers (inks), to give us the lord of the Savage Land, Zabu, and an unfamiliar face, as they fight savages, crocodiles, and more! A prose story (The Running of Ladyhound) by none other than sci-fi scribe, John Jakes (with a couple of images) and then a tale starring Shanna the She-Devil! This tale was scripted by Carla Conway (first wife of Gerry Conway), and the art team is Ross Andru and Vince Colleta! Not too bad, eh? Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, we get a cover by Boris Vallejo, as well!
Although there’s no specific reference in the comic book itself, Marvel Spotlight #4 (1972) is definitely an homage to the H.G. Wells book “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” That fantastic story has been adapted to the big screen a few times, with varying results, but in this case, it was a resounding success. The issue is only the third appearance of this character (Jack Russell/ the werewolf), and his supporting cast, but you already feel attached to him and his troubled life even in that short amount of time. The story follows Jack to an island, almost like the very same one in the Wells book.
If there was ever any doubt about the talent of Gerry Conway (and just for Spider-Man, there shouldn’t be), read his horror work, and you’ll be hard-pressed to not be impressed by his work. As if that wasn’t enough of a selling point, you get the absolutely eerie artwork of Mike Ploog, that is nothing short of a visual feast! Toss in the letters of comic book mainstay, Sam Rosen, and you’ve got one heckuva comic book!
As everyone knows, one of the best comic books is the mighty Thor! In this issue, we see that Thor has battled Ulik the Troll, and lost! Well, not really, but Ulik was smart enough to capture Jane Foster, so Thor surrenders. Ulik has had some trouble down in the nether regions…of subterranean Earth, and he strong-arms Thor into fighting for his cause. Typically, Ulik is just a villain that antagonizes Thor, and then they fight, so this story was a different angle for him.
Under the keen eyes of editor, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, who would later be followed by Wein as writer, crafted a nice little run on the title. From issue #193- 238, Conway showed the readers that he wasn’t a one-trick-pony with his success on the Amazing Spider-Man, but could forge some new ground with Thor. Not to be outdone, is the man, myth, and legend, ‘Big’ John Buscema. You can just look at his work in any comic, and it screams talent, and professionalism. The man never to a minute off in his work. Inked by the incomparable, Joe Sinnott, colors by Don Warfield, and letters by John Costanza, this swan song of Conway’s is a must have for fans of Thor or the Bronze Age! Cover by the great Gil Kane, with inks by the ever dependable Al Milgrom!
October is here, and the Halloween season is upon us all, so what better way to celebrate than with horror themed comic books! The first one I’m going to spotlight is an appearance of the Frankenstein Monster in Marvel Team-Up #36 & 37! The second issue actually gives us a Man-Wolf appearance as well, so you get double the monster fun! You get some good cop/bad cop from the monster, and that’s always cool, because the monster maybe be considered a villain by most, but honestly, he’s just misunderstood most of the time.
With the same core team creating both books, you get a consistency that really gives the book a strong foundation. Story by Gerry Conway, pencils by Sal Buscema, and inks by Vince Colletta, are the team for both parts of this two issue scare-fest! You also get two covers from Ed Hannigan (pencils) (Mike Esposito inks on #36, John Romita on #37), and both show some awesome action between Spidey and these two perennial horror icons! Keep your eyes open all month-long for comic books featuring iconic horror characters!
I wanted to get back to some classics from the Marvel titles Marvel Two-In-One and Marvel Team-Up, but I couldn’t stop looking at this issue of Marvel Tales. Early issues of Spidey are at a premium, so this reprint title is still pretty affordable, so grab them while you can! As I write this, I’m preparing for my trip to the Baltimore Comic Con this weekend (September 5-7). The list of creators is staggering, and I don’t know how I’ll be able to get to see all of them on Saturday. But, while there, I’m definitely going to search out more of those two other Marvel titles I mentioned, but also more issues of Marvel Tales!
Just look at the fine work by Gil Kane, John Romita Sr., Tony Mortellaro, and company! Great story by Gerry Conway as usual, too. The relationship and wild interaction between Spidey and Jameson is always funny, but throw in the Man-Wolf, and things crazy! Enjoy!