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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Giant-Size Super-Heroes 1, 1974 “Man-Wolf at Midnight!”

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)!

 

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Giant-Size Dr. Strange #1, 1975 “This Dream…This Doom!”

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!

 

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Conan the Barbarian #41, 1974 “Garden of Death and Life!”

Of course, who doesn’t enjoy a good story where Conan thrashes some scoundrels, and then saves the beautiful woman! I know a lot of people will steer clear of a series like this because they think it’s very one-trick pony, but if you really enjoy the genre, give it a try! This story in particular has a very weird and twisting ending. Sometimes Conan can get a little weary in regards to the plot, but action is never missing nor is a mystical/magical aspect that always kept my interest. Throw in an evil sorcerer or a weird creature, and I’m in for the long run!

When you have a character with the history that Conan has, it’s now extremely difficult to cook up decent stories. That’s not to take anything away from Roy Thomas (writer) mind you, but the groundwork laid by Robert E. Howard (creator) surely deserves the lion-share of the credit. It certainly doesn’t hurt your book when you have an artist the caliber of “Big” John Buscema (pencils, R.I.P.) and Ernie Chan (inker on interiors and cover) to put forth a spectacular visual feast either! Add on Bronze Age stalwarts John Costanza (letters), and Glynis Wein (colors), and the book will ascend to the heights of greatness! Did I forget to mention the cover by the master, Gil Kane?

 

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Thor #201, 1972 “Resurrection!”

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!

 

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