After more than a month of nothing but DC comics, I figured it was time to give a Marvel book some love. This one came into my possession not too long ago, and of course it had to eventually, being a Man-Thing appearance! Of course, by this time Manny’s first solo book had been cancelled, but maybe his fans were screaming for more! And look at this cover by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia!
As with any story written by Steve Gerber, it starts out bizarre, then settles in and stays that way until its completion. Most people might not enjoy that, and argue that his storytelling wasn’t coherent or anything more than nonsensical. But, if you dig deeper, you’ll see his feelings, thoughts, and emotions on paper, along with his opinions on social issues. When he wrote Man-Thing, it seemed easy for him to write this non-speaking character. Of course other characters did the heavy lifting with the dialogue, but Gerber still maintained having the Man-Thing be either the focus or at least a very relevant part of the story.
In this story, we get to see not only the macabre Man-Thing, but the playboy Tony Stark, and the villainous Molecule Man! Without going into a heavy amount of detail about this insane story, Tony Stark is in the Everglades to possibly finance a project (the rebuilding of Omegaville). We then see some kids playing in the swamp, and one them falls victim to the essence of the Molecule Man! A battle between Iron Man and Man-Thing breaks out, then one with all three characters ensues. Cameos by Reed Richards, the Vision, Richard Rory, and an animated skeleton all await inside this glorious book!
Some might like me to stop singing the praises of Steve Gerber (writer), but I can’t. The man had a knack for writing bizarre stories that were very good (if not excellent). The interior art by Sal Buscema (pencils) and Jack Abel (inks), is superb. Irv Watanabe on letters, Janice Cohen colors, and Marv Wolfman editing, round out the creative team in this fun annual.
On this April Fool’s Day, there is no joking around here! My all time favorite artist is Gene “The Dean” Colan, so it’s a special occasion when I get a book with his work in it! Most think of Gene when they hear Tomb of Dracula, and rightly so, but his work on superheroes like Captain America and Iron Man was special, too. Most also probably think of Kirby when the subject of machinery and technology are discussed, but when Gene drew these types of images in Iron Man, he was excellent at it.
In this issue, it’s up to Tony Stark A.K.A. Iron Man, to stop some Cuban Commies and their newest weapon, The Crusher. A pumped up, nigh invulnerable guy that’s ready to take down the Golden Avenger! Can Iron man take down this make-shift Frankenstein Monster?
Written by Stan Lee, pencils by “Genial” Gene Colan (cover as well) inks by Frank Giacoia (cover as well), and letters by Sam Rosen!
The second tale in this book is one that features Captain America, and his old foe, The Red Skull! This trippy tale is by Lee (story), Gil Kane (pencils), Joe Sinnott (inks), and AL Kurzrok (letters).
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!
As time marches on, back issues from the Silver Age and even the Bronze Age are creeping up in price. The scarcity of these gems is becoming a fact, and it drives the prices up. This is why I choose to go the route of reprints (the majority of the time)! Yeah, sometimes the colors are muddled with or the covers are tweaked, but I can live with that, as long as I get to read these marvelous books. In this fantastic issue, we get not only get a Captain America story, but also Iron Man! Both are classics, and have great creative teams behind them.
Speaking of creative teams, is there anyone that drew Captain America better than Jack “King” Kirby (cover and interior pencils)? Others have done fine work (Byrne, Romita, etc.), but no one seemed to really capture the essence of the character quite like the king! And who better to ink this story than “Joltin'” Joe Sinnott! Written by Stan Lee, and lettered by Artie Simek. The second story, was written by “Amiable” Archie Goodwin, the pencils by Gene “The Dean” Colan, inks by Johnny Craig (yeah, that E.C. Comics legend!), and letters once again by “Adorable” Artie Simek!
In late 1978, David Michelinie and Bob Layton began their collaboration on the title Iron Man. The stories they created together were very good, and both men deserve kudos for that accomplishment. This particular issue occurred a little while after the ending of “Demon in a Bottle” but the effects of that story were still in play. Tony/Iron Man will have to face off against one of his former lovers, but also a woman who is one of his deadliest enemies, Madame Masque!
As I said previously, Michelinie (co-plotter, scripter) and Layton (co-plotter, pencils, inks) had a solid run on this title, even during the times that aren’t as widely known. After their run, things kind of broke down a bit, and the title began to descend into relative obscurity (no offense to Denny O’Neil). The letters were provided by a familiar name, and John Costanza could always be counted on to deliver. Curiously, the colors are by writer/artist, Ed Hannigan, who’s typically not known for his coloring jobs (many more pencil/ink job and of course, writing). The editor was another Marvel mainstay of the times in Jim Salicrup!
Back in the very early days of Marvel Comics, there were only a couple of employees, and a few “work for hire” guys. We know of Lee, Kirby, and Ditko, but there was another face that was there from beginning as well. His name is Don Heck, and this man is responsible for co-creating many of our favorite characters (Hawkeye, Black Widow, The Mandarin, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Count Nefaria, The Swordsman, The Collector, Living Laser, Black Goliath, and Mantis)…yeah, you get the point. If not for his work the movies that now dazzle us a couple of times a year, would be less inviting, for sure.
His work on the Avengers really stands out for me personally, but not to be missed are his renditions of Dracula and Dr. Strange, too! Don passed away in 1995, from lung cancer. He may be gone, but his magnificent work lives on! I mean, who else could draw Morbius tossing a crab into the ocean or Dracula fighting a giant heart? So, here’s to you, Don Heck, may your work live on forever!
As we creep closer to the end of the month, and my spotlight on Gene Colan, I would be remiss, if I didn’t get some of his fantastic work on Dr. Strange out there for the masses! The Doc is my favorite character of all time, just edging out Thor and Captain America, and Gene’s work on the Doc is a big reason! Of course, Tomb of Dracula was the ultimate influence, and that title will get its due in my last post on Saturday! Here are some of my favorite covers, title pages, and splash pages by Gene! Quick warning, there are a lot of pics! Enjoy!
Alright, so, the tag line of this book might be slightly misleading, but it certainly doesn’t diminish the pure awesomeness of the issue! The first story (Stan Lee & the late, great, Gene Colan) is a Vietnam story with ‘ol Shellhead. The second story features Captain America (by Stan Lee & Jack ‘King’ Kirby), as he and Nick Fury battle it out with A.I.M.! Cover by Jack ‘King’ Kirby & Frank Giacoia! Enjoy!