Haunted Horror- A trip into Pre-code madness!

For all those that wonder in amazement over the horror comics they see today, do yourself a favor if you already haven’t. Go back in time (thanks to IDW and Yoe Books), before the CCA (Comics Code Authority) was instituted, and revel in the brilliant, thought-provoking, and outright envelope pushing work that was done in the era before that foolish code was created.

Kudos must be given to the creators of this incredible work, but also to Craig Yoe, for putting this all together, and reminding us all of those great times. Getting this material back in front of comic book buyers in this day through a big publisher like IDW is something to be lauded.

The stories are various in their subject matter, but the resounding theme was horror, straight up. Zombies, murderers, radioactive insects, vampires, werewolves, etc. These wild comic books were carefully hidden under the beds of kids everywhere back in the 1950’s, in hopes that mom wouldn’t find them and throw them away. Don’t let that fool you though, they’re still pretty edgy even in this era. Do yourself a favor, grab these issues before they get too expensive, because we all know how expensive the original comics are from this age!

 

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Jack Kirby’s – Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

A post-apocalyptic world dominated by talking apes with an odd assortment of other talking creatures such as killer dolphins…yep. The unbridled imagination of Jack “King” Kirby (writer, editor, penciler) is something of wonder to us mere mortals, and it has been from his earliest works to his creations in the 1970s- work such as Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

The book has a Planet of the Apes meets Escape From New York kinda vibe to it, and that’s a wonderful combination. No, Kamandi isn’t Snake Plissken, but the general tone and war-torn future definitely match up. There’s quirkiness to this title that has all the charm you’d expect from a comic produced by Kirby. Every issue I own contains not just a wild story, but also multiple splash pages that will absolutely blow your mind!

The early issues were inked by Mike Royer (also inker on another great Kirby DC title during this era, The Demon), and other than Joe Sinnott and Bill Everett, he’s probably my favorite Kirby inker. The later issues were inked/lettered by D. Bruce Berry. His style fit Kirby pretty well too, but not quite as powerfully as Royer’s. My absolute favorite issue is 29, because of the Superman tie-in! Kirby was a creator that can make anything seem real, no matter how ludicrous it seems when you step back and look at it.

 

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The Human Torch 8, 1974 “The Painter of a Thousand Perils!”

Alright, so, Torch got his own series in the 1970’s…sort of…yes, it’s reprints, BUT the cover is brand new, and the reprints are good stuff! When you have villains as sinister as The Painter (Wilhelm Van Vile), and “Scar” Tobin, you know that your chances of survival are minimal! OK, maybe not, but these two evil-doers are definitely near the top of the cornball list, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s an awesome list.

When I look down at the credits box, and see Jack “King” Kirby (pencils), I understand that there will be a quality to this book that few others can even think of attaining. Frequent inker of the Silver Age (but also a good penciler and overall artist since the Golden Age) “Darlin” Dick Ayers, is a name most will remember from his inking in the early Marvel Age. He also did some great stuff in the military and western genres as well. The scripter, Robert Bernstein, is an enigma to me. I believe I’ve only heard his name once or twice before, and to my recollection, this is the only comic I own with his work in it. The cover is by one of my favorite unsung heroes of the Marvel Bronze Age, “Rampaging” Ron Wilson! A plot by Stan Lee and letters by Terry Szenics rounds out the creative team! Oh, and don’t miss the advert at the bottom! 

 

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Black Magic 8, 1975 “My Dolly the Devil!”

Back in the 1950s (before the Wertham crusades), Jack Kirby and Joe Simon were still chugging along with their creative partnership, and were producing comic books in their own shop. One of the companies they produced comic books for was Prize Comics (Crestwood Publications). This was the launching pad for titles like “Young Romance” (the first ever romance comic book), “Fighting American” and “Black Magic!” Before the Comics Code Authority was established, you had the awesomeness of EC Comics, and shops like Simon and Kirby’s churning out great stuff that really set the bar for horror of the time.

The book contains four stories (5, if you count a one page prose tale), that are all pretty good! Graveyards, ghosts, sinister dolls, killer dwarves, you name it, this one has it (*note- this book is a reprint of Golden Age stories, that explains all the pre-code talk!)! Credits include- Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Jerry Grandenetti (cover), Bruno Premiani, Leonard Starr, and more! Enjoy!

 

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The Avengers 148, 1976 “20,000 Leagues Under Justice!”

After leaving Marvel (Timely/Atlas) for the second time, Jack Kirby created the Fourth World. To put it simply, he created an entire universe full of characters from the vast, galactic brain of his that had already spawned the likes of Captain America (with Joe Simon), the Romance genre, the Boy Commandos, Challengers of the Unknown, The Sky Masters of the Space Force, and…well, you get it. Oh and he also co-engineered (if not engineered) much of the Marvel Silver Age.

After a few short years at DC, he returned to Marvel once again, and he gave us all something very different, and very cool. Titles like Machine Man, Devil Dinosaur, 2001: A Space Odyssey, drove our imaginations to new heights. Kirby also did numerous covers for the Fantastic Four, and The Avengers! Books like this one are a comic book lovers dream. Cover by Jack “King” Kirby, story by “Stainless” Steve Englehart, pencils by “Gorgeous” George Pérez, inks by Sam Grainger, colors by Hugh Paley, and letters by “Titanic” Tom Orzechowski! This issue features one of the teams that could consistently give The Avengers a run for their money- The Squadron Supreme!

 

 

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Marvel Comics: The Liberty Legion and The Crusaders!

Roy “The Boy’ Thomas, is one of my all-time favorite comic book creators. Not only is he one of the best writers, editors, and creators of characters (the two teams I’ll focus on now!), but also one of the best historians of the industry as well (Alter Ego). One of the things I think he did best was create teams that were retcons (retroactive continuity- meaning they didn’t exist in the same time-frame where their stories were written, but during the Golden Age instead).

Whether it was battling the Red Skull, fighting alongside The Thing against more Nazis, or arm in arm with The Invaders in the European Theater, these two teams were always right in the middle of the action! Other than Rascally Roy, these characters were brought to life by the best, including Jack “King” Kirby, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Frank Robbins, Alan Kupperberg, Frank Springer, Vince Colletta, Joe Sinnott, Chic Stone, Don Glut, and more! Images from Marvel Premiere 28, Marvel Two-in-One Annual 2 (1976), The Invaders 41, 15, 35, 36, and 37 (1976-1978)!

 

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Strange Tales 146, “The End at Last!”

All good things must come to an end…and so did the reign of a certain creator on this title! In this awesome story, we see Dormammu battling not only his nemesis Dr. Strange and then none other than Eternity! Dormammu laid a trap for Eternity and the Doc, but things fall apart rather quickly in this issue for the fiery-headed fiend! Before that though, we do see just how powerful Dormammu is, when he confronts Eternity, and manages to hold his own for a while!

The glorious artwork by “Sturdy” Steve Ditko in this, his last issue of Strange Tales, is absolutely marvelous. There are three full splash pages that are nothing short of brilliant, and Spider-Man aside, show his best work in a superhero book. Most know of Ditko’s abrupt departure from Marvel Comics, and how he’s the biggest recluse in comic book history (to my knowledge). I’d love for him to do just one interview to set some things straight, and not listen to all the pundits speculate about certain matters. Either way, he’s one of the best creators of the industry has ever seen, and should be lauded as such. The story is scripted by “Dandy” Denny O’Neil, colors by Stan Goldberg, and letters by Artie Simek!

The other story in the book (“When the Unliving Strike!”) features Nick Fury. The story by Stan Lee, and layouts by Jack “King” Kirby, pencils by “Dashing” Don Heck, inks by “Mirthful” Mick Demeo, and letters by Sam Rosen.

 

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Machine Man 11, 1979 “Byte of the Binary Bug!”

The title “Machine Man,” was from the incredible mind of Jack “King” Kirby. As with virtually everything he touched, the book was great, but his run only lasted for the first nine issues. After that, it took a strange turn when Steve Ditko took over the artistic duties. This story brings in a techno-villain that seems to have what it takes to not only commit daring crimes, but also to stop Machine Man as well! A wild story with a tragic ending, as only Marvel in the Bronze Age can supply!

The man named Marv Wolfman (writer/editor), must have lived in the studio during the Bronze Age. Between the writing, plotting, and editing, his resumé is ridiculous. He’ll always be a legend for his collaboration with Gene Colan (Tomb of Dracula), but he was always a consistently good writer no matter what title. Steve Ditko (interior art and cover) needs no introduction or hyperbole thrown his way. If not for him, Spider-Man wouldn’t be the iconic character he is today, period. Michele Wolfman (colors) and John Costanza (letters), round out the creative team!

 

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Fantastic Four Annual 11, 1976 “And Now, The Invaders!”

Returning to the corner of the Marvel Universe occupied by Marvel’s first family, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on an amazing annual from the Bronze Age. In FF 169, Luke Cage was under the sway of the Puppet Master, and attacked the Fantastic Four. While he was going crazy, he knocked some Vibranium into Reed’s time machine. It was transported back to WWII era, and into the hands of the Nazis. With this awesome weapon, it looked as if the Allies would be defeated, and the world would live in tyranny. The FF then uses the time machine to hurl themselves back in time to help the greatest team of WWII, The Invaders, stop the Nazis and Baron Zemo!

This era of Marvel will always be my favorite, as Jack Kirby (cover pencils, inks by Joe Sinnott) returned to do some great covers like this one. Not to be outdone, is Mr. editor/writer/everything man, Roy Thomas, as he adds his uncanny ability to write team books. And this one has two great teams in it! One of my all time favorite artists, is “Big” John Buscema (pencils). His pencils are always a treat to see, and the inks of Sam Grainger compliment him well. Colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by Sam Rosen!

 

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The Demon 6, 1973 “The Howler!”

The Bronze Age was a great time in comic books. After a long stint with Marvel Comics, Jack Kirby decided to take his talents to South Beach…oh, sorry wrong guy. He decided to take his enormous talents (back) to DC Comics, where he could have free reign over the books he was going to create. This allowed the king to really go wild and let his imagination run free. One of the best things he created was the character called, Etrigan the Demon! Many have probably heard of this character, but might not have read any of the short-lived series. It’s definitely worth a look, especially when you see quirky issue like this one, where Etrigan battles a werewolf!

The exploits of Jack “King” Kirby (writer, penciler, editor), are well documented. That doesn’t mean myself and tons of others are ever going to stop slobbering over his greatness though. His imagination unbridled is simply astounding. After decades of creating, the 1970’s brought no slow down for him, and just solidified him even more as one of the true greats (if not the greatest) in the medium of all time. The man who shared some of the spotlight during this era, was Mike Royer (inks). His inks on this book, Kamandi, and others, gave Kirby’s pencils a uniformity and that’s definitely a compliment to his work.

 

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