DC Limited Collectors’ Edition C-23, 1973 “The House of Mystery”

As October is finally winding down, one more over-sized book must get the royal treatment! And there is not a better place to walk into than The House of Mystery! Over the years that title has had many themes (pre-code horror, superheroes, then back to horror), but it really didn’t take off until 1968, when editor Joe Orlando took over the reigns (issue 174). Within just a few issues, we saw the first professional work of the most seminal horror artist of the Bronze Age, Bernie Wrightson (issue 179). Some would argue he’s the horror artist of all time, and there’s a good argument for it, but obviously that subjective, and could be talked about for decades (and probably will be).

Looking specifically at this book, we get a Nick Cardy cover, and his contributions to the comic book world cannot be in question. His decades-long  work for DC comics is nothing short of astounding. Inside we get a frontispiece by Jack Sparling, with the familiar host, Cain, telling us we are about to be in for a surprise! The first story, “The House of Gargoyles,” is scripted by Jack Oleck, with art by the aforementioned Sparling. Next, there is an incredible story called “The Secret of the Egyptian Cat.” Written by Robert Kanigher (long time DC scribe that wrote many war stories), and although he does a fine job, the artistic prowess of Bernie Wrightson is what really makes this one memorable.

The third story (“The Widow’s Walk“) is another good one, with Howard Post scripting, and the art team of Neal Adams and Joe Orlando! Very good story top to bottom! We are then treated to a two-page splash of Cain by Wrightson (black and white version), and the image is absolutely stunning. A better, more iconic image really doesn’t exist in comics. Another story (“His Name is… Kane“) with another hall of fame artist follows, as Gil Kane (pencils) and Wally Wood (inks) bless us with an art combination for the ages. The script is by Mike Friedrich, who worked for DC and Marvel during his career. As if all of this wasn’t enough, enter Alex Toth (art) with “The Devil’s Doorway.” Another script by Jack Oleck, and once again, no offense meant, but the artwork really lifts this one up quite high. Toth is a master that did everything his way, and should be lauded for it. Lastly, we get another gem from Neal Adams, Joe Orlando, and Robert Kanigher. “Nightmare” is the perfect way to finish off this extraordinary book! The book is also filled with funny pages by Sergio Aragonés, and even features a cut out, table top diorama on the back cover!

 

 

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Ghost Rider 8, 1974 “The Devil’s Disciple!”

Back in the Bronze Age, the Ghost Rider was packed full of devilish ideas, and it was certainly a sign of the times. Many books featured cults, devils, and all sorts of satanic shenanigans. From the beginning of Ghost Rider’s days in comics, he was wrapped in these themes, and for the most part still is now. There have been different iterations but in the end, the character can’t get away from that aspect of his origin.

This particular issue features not only the flame-headed, motorcycle riding man/ghost himself, Johnny Blaze, but a new villain named Inferno, and the coup de grâce, Satan himself! For a very long time there was an unwritten rule at Marvel that God and Satan (post Comics Code Authority) were off-limits to comic books. On a few different occasions, Marvel tried to explain away any appearances by Satan, in saying it wasn’t really “Satan” but some other lesser demon masquerading as the infernal devil. Why they felt the need to back-peddle or avoid the situation totally, I can’t be certain (because nothing makes sense since we’re talking about fictitious characters in comic books, but again, probably the Code), but certainly in years to come things would change. There is a story that the writer (Tony Isabella) tells about how he wanted to eventually name a character he created in this series as being God/Jesus, but an editor changed the story before it was printed. Not the first time we’ve heard of this going on, and I’m sure not the last.

The story was written by Tony Isabella, who went on to create characters like Black Goliath, and Black Lightning (for DC comics). The art team consisted of Jim Mooney (pencils), and Sal Trapani (inks), both of whom were seasoned artists by this time period. Since the Golden Age, Mooney and Trapani worked steadily in comics. Mooney most notably for DC comics on Supergirl, and Trapani for his inking during this very time period (plus his work for Dell comics earlier). Phil Rachelson was the colorist, and John Costanza the letterer. Again , two names most know from their consistent work in this time period. The book was edited by Roy Thomas. The magnificent cover is by the legendary Gil Kane (pencils) and (long time inker/artist) Dan Adkins!

 

 

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.

 

 

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)!

 

Monsters Unleashed Annual 1, 1975 “Super Annual Issue”

Annuals can be tough as far as finding good material. A lot of the time they’re just reprints, so if you own the content in another form, it’s kind of a waste of money. This mag gives you no new content, but does have a cool cover and a couple of new stories to make it worth the dough. And of course, if you’re a completest, you must buy it anyway!

Of course you get all top-notch creators from Marvel at the time in this one. Seeing some of these creators that aren’t known for their horror work turn out such great material is just more proof that this was an incredible time for comics. Each one brings their own personality to the stories, and even though some might say these quick little stories are an afterthought, they are very good and stand the test of time.

The cover is absolutely fantastic, and artist Ken Bald really brought his best to this one. He’s a guy that had worked since the Golden Age, and some of his covers are absolutely gorgeous (look them up!). The first full story (The Cold of the Uncaring Moon) is by Steve Skeates (writer), George Tuska (pencils) and Klaus Janson (inks). There’s nothing like a good werewolf story to get the mag started! Next, we get World of Warlocks! This one is brought to us by Roy Thomas and Gardner Fox (story/writers), and Gene ‘The Dean’ Colan (artist)! This incredible tale of fantasy is a great one! “Lifeboat” follows, and Spidey-scribe Gerry Conway (writer), and Jesus Blasco (art) shows us what terror really is! The writer of the next story, Don McGregor, is one of my favorites, and doesn’t really get credit for much other than his Black Panther work. The guy wrote some really good horror stories, and “Demon of Slaughter Mansion” with art by Juan Boix is no exception! “Birthright,” has a giant serpent-type creature terrorizing a jungle that inhabits most;y peaceful people. Roy Thomas (writer), Gil Kane (pencils) and The Crusty Bunkers (inks) bring us this tale of fantasy! What does Jack the Ripper and a werewolf have in common? Chris Claremont (writer) and Don Perlin (art) know, and they weave a tale to show us. Finally (almost), we see the notorious muck monster, Man-Thing, and he must face not only vicious alligators, but vampire bats as well! Story by Tony Isabella and art by Vicente Alcalzar. There are also three one-pagers “Thunderbird” “They Might be Monsters”  and “Monsters from the Sea” by Tony Isabella and Ernie Chan (Pablo Marcos) on art for the They Might be Monsters story)!

 

 

 

Supernatural Thrillers Featuring The Living Mummy!

As I sit here watching The Mummy’s Shroud (1967, Hammer Studios), The Living Mummy (N’Kantu) seemed like a good subject to present during my month-long look at horror comics. As the title Supernatural Thrillers switched from new characters every in issue to an ongoing monster of its own in the mummy.

In the first few issues, we see N’Kantu being disoriented, then fighting thieves and hoodlums. Later though, he would be pitted up against other supernatural beings, and that was a spectacle. It’s a natural progression of course, and sufficed to say it gave the readers some good entertainment. These “Elementals” (Hydron, Magnum, Hellfire) showed some real persistence and continually attacked N’Kantu and his friends (once the mummy became more lucid, he became a hero).

From a standpoint of creativity, these books had some of Marvel’s best talents during this era at the helm (and I’ll list them all below). You had some that had been around for a few years and some that were early in their careers (especially with Marvel). This mix led to so much excellent content not only in horror stories but every genre. It’s also worth to note that N’Kantu is the second supernatural character of color in Marvel (he predates Brother Voodoo by a month, but Blade was the month just before his first appearance). This was all part of a change in the business to include more characters and creators that were minorities.

Make no mistake, this title was Val Mayerik’s coming out party. Not only did he provide pencils (and inks for some issues), for most of these issues, but also plot assists for a few as well! He’ already had great success with Howard the Duck, and Man-Thing, but this really solidified him as an all around creator.

 

Issue 5 – cover by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia; written by Steve Gerber, art by Rich Buckler and Frank Chiaramonte, colors by Petra Goldberg, and letters by Jean Izzo.

 

Issue 7 – cover by Ron Wilson and John Romita; written by Steve Gerber, art by Val Mayerik, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by John Costanza.

 

Issue 8 – cover by Larry Lieber and Tom Palmer; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski.

 

Issue 9 – cover by Gil Kane and Al Milgrom; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik and Dan Adkins, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by Tom Orzechowski.

 

Issue 10 – cover by Gil Kane and Al Milgrom; scripted by Len Wein (plot by Isabella and Mayerik), art by Val Mayerik and Dan Adkins, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Artie Simek.

 

Issue 11 – cover by Frank Brunner; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik (plot assist as well), colors by Bill Mantlo, and letters by Alan Kupperberg.

 

Issue 12 – cover by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik (plot assist as well), and Klaus Janson, colors by Bill Mantlo, letters by Karen Mantlo.

 

Issue 13 – cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik (plot assist as well) and Dan Green, colors by Janice Cohen, letters by Karen Mantlo.

 

Issue 14 – cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer; written by John Warner, art by Val Mayerik (plot as well) and Al McWilliams, colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by John Costanza.

 

Issue 15 – cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer; written by John Warner, art by Tom Sutton, colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by John Costanza.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Marvel Comics – The Son of Satan!

As I close in on finishing off a few different runs of comic book series, one in particular has me jazzed. Marvel’s attempt to popularize a character during the 1970s cult craze was successful as far as lasting power. Daimon Hellstrom has appeared as recently as 2016, and is still a name that carries weight. Definitely more of a fringe or “B” – lister, but he has been in solo books, team books, limited series, and so on. First appearing in the pages of Ghost Rider vol. 1, number one, he quickly transitioned to Marvel Spotlight, then his own solo title until its cancellation with issue number eight.

The fact that Marvel published a title/character with this name and origin back then is wild. Yeah, times they were a changing, as was the comic book code. Still, think about the 1970s and many groups (religious, political, etc.) would’ve been vehemently opposed to this material. Just on face value, it’s understandable, but when you actually read the material, you’ll find out that not only is the lead character a hero, but that good>evil every time. Yes, that can get a little one-note, but as the years go by, Daimon will make some decisions that are questionable, and feel the pain of loss as well. So you do get some variety for sure.

With creators such as Steve Gerber, Sal Buscema, Jim Mooney, Bill Mantlo, Sonny Trinidad, John Warner, Gil Kane, Russ Heath, Sal Trapani, Dave Hunt, Rich Buckler, P. Craig Russell, and so on, these books are nothing short of stellar! The stories varied from super-heroics, to battles with a myriad of demons and demi-gods, and even Satan himself! It is interesting to see how the different creative teams portrayed his demeanor, powers, and actions. Sometimes he was hot-headed, other times he would be cool, calm, and collected. Either way, he’s been a solid character throughout the years that has always been around and kicking up dust (definitely check out his run in The Defenders vol. 1 as well).

 

 

Marvel Comics: War is Hell! (issues 9-12)

In the 1970s, Marvel was spewing out tons of reprint books. One title that started out as a reprint book but eventually changed to new material, was War is Hell! With issue number nine, we were introduced to John Kowalski and the manifestation of Death itself. Kowalski dies but Death will not let him cross over to the other side. Not until he executes a few deeds in Death’s name! A bizarre series to say the least, but also a very good one. It puts the main character in interesting situations, and is very mature for its time. Definitely seek out the back issues, they are well worth your shekels (even the early issues that are reprints).

Naturally, when people hear the name Chris Claremont (writer), they think of the X-Men, and rightly so. He wrote that book for seventeen years, and took something from the ash heap, and turned it into the juggernaut it is today. The book’s new direction was conceived by Tony Isabella and Roy Thomas though, but ultimately, Claremont put the words on the pages! The artistic duties fell on whomever the Marvel offices could grab, but this was not a curse by any stretch. The covers were done by Gil Kane (pencils #9 – 14, with inks by a combination over the issue of Ernie Chan, Tom Palmer, and Mike Esposito), and Herb Trimpe (#15). Interiors had the talents of Dick Ayers (pencils) and Frank Springer (inks) on #9 and 10, Don Perlin (pencils) and Sal Trapani (inks) on #11 with inks by Dave Hunt on #12, George Evans on #14, and Herb Trimpe on #13 and 15! Not too shabby, eh?

 

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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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