Where Monsters Dwell 5, 1970 “Taboo Lives Again!”

After a few weeks of superheroes, it’s time for more monsters! Not the usual Bronze Age fare (well technically not even though this is a reprint from 1970), but material from the preceding Silver or “Atlas Age” at Marvel comics. During this time, you had Stan Lee writing and editing just about everything (some work by Larry Lieber and a few others, but the overwhelming majority was Lee), and two giants of the industry penciling. Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko are undoubtedly two of the most influential creators of the medium, but not for this material, as most know. But, don’t sleep on these comics, because they do offer some really good artwork, and some interesting stories as well.

The four stories in this reprint book are all very different, as one features a giant monster (The Return of Taboo, Strange Tales 77, 1960), a sorcerer (The Strange Magic of Master Khan, Strange Tales 77 as well), aliens (We Met in the Swamp, Tales to Astonish 7, 1960), and a ghost (I Lived a Ghost Story, ST 7 as well)! Credits include – Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Paul Reinman, Dick Ayers, and Artie Simek (with possible alterations by Marie Severin).

 

 

Thor 164, 1969 “Lest Mankind Fall!”

The Bronze Age will always be a huge focus for this blog, but honestly, the late Silver Age is when Marvel comics really started to turn the corner and become not only an innovator, but also super cool. The words trippy and groovy come to mind immediately when you look at their books from this period. The majority of their characters were in place, and the comic book revolution was in full swing by 1969!

This was also a sad time for Marvel, as Jack “King” Kirby was just about to leave the company for greener pastures over at DC comics. He’d have the freedom to write, pencil, and edit his books there, and who wouldn’t be excited about that (plus get paid more as well). The mighty Thor was taken to new heights by Kirby recently, as he’s been to space and met the force of nature known as Galactus, and the malevolent Ego the Living Planet!

In this issue we get a huge battle between Thor and Sif and Pluto and his hordes of the underworld! Fear not, as we’ll also see Balder the Brave, Thor, and even Zeus himself! This book is action packed, and really shows the scope of the Marvel universe as it pertains to the realms of the gods!

Written by Stan Lee, art by Jack “King” Kirby (pencils) and Vince Colletta (inks), and letters by Sam Rosen! The magnificent cover is also by Jack Kirby and Vince Coletta (with colors possibly by Marie Severin)!

 

Marvel Treasury Special – Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag (1974)

Is there anything more awesome than the over-sized comic book? Of course not, and Marvel comics lead the way in spectacular fashion in the 1970s in the form of the Treasury Edition! And not only just a Treasury Edition, but a holiday edition! Now, just for the record, only two of the stories inside actually have a Christmas theme, but hey, let’s not get picky!

The first story is probably the best “holiday” centered of the entire book. We see Spidey and the Human Torch take on the Sandman! It’s Christmas time, and the Sandman is looking to wrap up the two heroes…or is he (Roy Thomas, writer – Ross Andru, pencils – Mike Esposito, inks – and Artie Simek, letters)? Next, a classic tale from the Silver Age, as the arrogant Submariner decides to go to the surface world. Once there, he speaks with a lawyer about wanting to sue the entire human race. Too bad for him that lawyer is none other than Matt Murdoch, A.K.A. Daredevil (story by Stan Lee, art by Wally Wood, and letters by Artie Simek). The third tale is the other holiday adjacent one in the book. It’s all about the Black Widow, and her man-servant, Ivan! They’re here to help a young man that tried to commit suicide, and then see if they can get him help (written by Roy Thomas, art by Gene Colan and Bill Everett, letters by Artie Simek). The last two issues are from the Fantastic Four and a crossover with the Avengers! Not much along the lines of holiday cheer, but a cool story nonetheless (of course, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby!)!

 

 

DC comics: The Sandman (Wesley Dodds)

Being a little green yet with my DC comics and their characters, I decided to grab this trade and single issue out of pure curiosity, but make no mistake, the names Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (definitely check out the Kirby Museum for a ton of facts, pages, and excellent insight to Kirby!) had a lot to do with the purchase as well! This incredible duo didn’t create the Sandman (Gardner Fox and Bert Christman did), but not long after a revamp by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris (Adventure Comics #69), Joe and Jack took over the reigns, and really created some fantastic adventures for this crazy character and his new sidekick (Sandy)!

The stories varied from heavy subjects like slavery and suicide, to the more usual tales of war and the mob! Mostly though, they had a strange vibe or a villain that was downright bizarre. People like NightShade (later known as Ramulus), Thor, and Noah…Barton, who has an Ark full of animals. No joke folks, it’s all right here in these pages. From Nazis to Santa Claus, anything you can think of Simon and Kirby already have, and more than likely before you or your parents were even born.

The second part of this post is to spotlight an issue of DC Comics Presents (#42, written by Mike Barr and artwork by Jose Delbo and Joe Giella), as it was the first time I’d ever read a story about the Sandman! Reading this cool story about where the character went after the Golden Age (a back up as the main story was one that featured Superman and the Unknown Soldier, which is just OK), really had me thinking about this character I’d heard of but never really knew anything about, other than he was created in the Golden Age, and was later (in name) drastically changed for a Vertigo title by Neil Gaiman (I’ve read absolutely none of those – not my thing). There was another story in JLA 113, 19974, that showed what happened to Sandy, and featured Dodds (I don’t own that one yet!).

Whether you’re a fan of Golden Age characters or haven’t really read much of them, definitely give the Sandman a try!

 

 

Weird Wonder Tales 6, 1974 “The Man Who Owned a Ghost?”

As the 1970s progressed, Marvel went full on crazy with the reprints. Some were of recent material (Spider-Man, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, etc.), and others were from as far back as the Atom Age (post Golden Age but pre-Silver Age). Flooding the market was nothing new for them, but it is still astonishing to look back on. Not that you can blame them, after all they were under the constraints of the publisher that was their rival for many years. Once they got out from under those shackles, they went hog-wild, and who could blame them.

The book is all reprints, but don’t discount it on that accord. The first story alone is worth its weight in gold, as Bill Everett is the mastermind behind “The Man Who Owned a Ghost!” Some artists have their work deteriorate as they age, but Everett’s work got stronger, just look! The second story, “Was He Just Seeing Things?,” has art by Manny Stallman, and this is a creator that I’m not very familiar with to be honest (here’s a link to Mark Evanier’s blog from 1997, talking a bit about him). Neat little sci-fi story including dinosaurs! “Homicide” follows and brings an axe murderer! Nothing here you didn’t already see from a publisher like EC comics, but still pretty jarring. The art in that one is by Harry Anderson. Again, a relative unknown today, but I found some info here. The last installment in the book is called “The Man in the Crazy Maze.” A treat for sure, as this has art by Jack Kirby (pencils) and Dick Ayers (inks)! It’s always a treat to see some Kirby! The cover is by Larry Lieber (probably pencils/layouts) and Mike Esposito (inks).

 

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen 142, 1971 “The Man from Transilvane!”

If you would’ve told a comic book reader in the 1960s that Jack Kirby would soon be working for DC comics, and writing/drawing/editing a story about Superman vs a vampire, I’m sure there would’ve been some laughs. Well, welcome to 1971, where Kirby has again returned to DC and was given the freedom to create with very little oversight (other than DC being fools and redrawing his faces). He took over the lowly title of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, as to not bump another creator off of a good book. Yeah, that’s the kind of guy he was!

Inside we see the normal bombastic Kirby images that are larger than life, and exploding off of the page. A vampire, a werewolf (type creature), and of course the regulars from Metropolis. Clark and Jimmy need to find out why Laura Conway is acting strangely and why she has two puncture wounds on her neck! It doesn’t take long for the perpetrator to rear his sinister head, and the action is full on!

The cover has inks by Mike Royer, and his work with Kirby in this era is great (more of their work coming soon!). The interiors were inked by the oft maligned Vince Colletta, but honestly, they look fine in this issue. There are also a few pages of bonus material by the King, and a Newsboy Legion reprint with Joe Simon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel Treasury Edition 2, 1974 “The Fabulous Fantastic Four”

In the comic book hall of fame, there are a lot of great stories. Single issues, trades, whatever the format, dozens come across one’s mind immediately. Star-spanning adventures, tales of morality, love, tragedy, etc., take your pick. The format is one of the most underappreciated of all time, no doubt. One of the best examples of the different story types is none other than Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four! The familial aspect, love, loss, tragedy, comedy, etc., you get it all with them, especially under the creative eyes of Jack “King” Kirby and Stan “The Man” Lee!

After recently purchasing Marvel Treasury Edition 2, I finally read the epic story The Galactus Trilogy! This first encounter for Earth with a literal and figurative giant of the cosmos is so incredible, you will feel as if you’ve been through a war after reading it! And, not only do you get that incredible story, but also Dr. Doom, the Submariner, and The Impossible Man! With the back issues being extremely pricey, this is a great way to get to read these legendary stories and not break the bank! Finally, apologies for the low quality of the images (my scanner isn’t big enough to accommodate Treasury sized books). Enjoy!

 

 

 

Marvel Triple Action 17, 1974 “Once an Avenger”

Let’s face it, villains are much cooler than heroes. Their ability to make us think, to challenge the hero, to explore boundaries, etc., is way beyond that of their counterparts. Take Kang the Conqueror for instance. He’s without a doubt a top-tier villain in any universe, and has proved that since 1964 (Avengers 8). This mag is a reprint of The Avengers 23, 1965, and the fourth appearance of the character in under two years! For any era, that’s pretty good, and shows what kind of staying power Kang would have for years to come!

In this issue, we see Cap leaves the team after some turmoil (he was a bit temperamental back then!), and attempts to take a job as a sparring partner for a boxing champion. That lasts about two seconds, and he returns to the team afterward. Just in time, as the rest of the team has been subdued by Kang! And immediately after taking down Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…Kang attempts to take Ravonna out on a date but her dad says no (panel below). No joke!

This epic tale was brought to you by Dashing Don Heck (pencils), Jazzy John Romita (cover and interior inks), Stan “the man” Lee (writer), Artie Simek (letters), and Jack “King” Kirby (cover pencils)!

 

 

Marvel Collectors Item Classics 6 and 11, 1966/67

The Silver Age is when it all turned around for Marvel comics. The company went from vanilla books starring monsters, western heroes, and cheesy romance characters, to exciting titles like the Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man, etc. After just a few short years, Marvel had bona-fide hits on their hands, so they began to issue reprints of these stories (just 4 years after they were first printed!). These books are great, and you get four stories in each one! Classics starring the Fantastic Four, Iron Man (Tales of Suspense), The Incredible Hulk, and Dr. Strange (Strange Tales)! You get the best from Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Stan Lee, and more! Rather than droning on about how great these books are, I’ll just let the images do the talking for me!

 

Captain America – Top 5 Creative Teams

The character Captain America is not only the greatest superhero to ever don the red, white, and blue, but also the only hero from the Golden Age strictly born out of patriotism that survives today. That alone says something about the strength of the character, and in a small way about patriotism in general. That being said, Captain America has had some very thought-provoking story lines over the years, and a select few men have been responsible! Here are my choices for the five best of all time!

 

 

5. Joe Simon (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

There are two reasons I have these gentleman on this list (and where). First, I don’t believe you can have a list like this without the creators of the character. Not having read very much material from the Golden Age is why this team isn’t higher on the list. The fact that these men created one of the most iconic characters ever, but that they had him punching the ultimate personification of evil (Adolph Hitler) in the face is absolutely fantastic.

 

4. Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

In his second run with Cap, Kirby really cranked up the visual feasts. He took Cap to new heights that haven’t been reached again and probably never will be. The stories in this era (Silver Age in Tales of Suspense, and then his own title) had more intrigue and spy material than straight up war angles, and that fit perfectly with the Cold War going on at the time.

 

 

3. Roger Stern (writer) and John Byrne (artist)

If you sit back and think how great this run was and that it only encompassed nine issues, that alone tells you how great it truly was to read. Any creative team that can produce a serious story about Cap considering running for the presidency and you believe it, has to be near the top of any list. And just the creepy Baron Blood issues alone are incredibly good!

 

2. Ed Brubaker (writer) and Steve Epting (artist)

To say that Captain America (and a lot of the Marvel Universe) needed updating after the turn of the century is an understatement. The shot in the arm was delivered by this awesome team. And yes, this is a list of Cap creative teams, but this team bringing back Bucky, and turning him into Steve’s worst nightmare was pure genius. No one has come close to this level of writing since.

 

1. Steve Englehart (writer) and Sal Buscema (artist)

From issue #153-181 (with almost no interruptions), Steve and Sal gave the readers everything they could possibly want. The political intrigue, racial bigotry, disturbing truths about a government he trusted, etc. The best part though, was Cap’s friendship with the Falcon. He and Sam Wilson grew to be best of friends, and an awesome crime fighting team! The villains were a big part of this run as well- Dr. Faustus, the 1950s Cap and Bucky (click here for details), Red Skull, Yellow Claw, Serpent Squad, Baron Zemo, Moonstone, and more! All the while having guest stars like the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., Black Panther, Iron Man, you name it. This creative team pulled out all the stops (even Cap quitting!), and that is why they are number one!

 

 

Honorable mentions; first, to the team of Jack Kirby (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)! His return to Marvel in the mid-1970s ushered in some incredible trippy stories starring Cap, and even if the stories don’t grab you, the mind-numbing artwork will! Also, Stan Lee (writer) and Gene Colan (artist). Awesome run with more action than you can ever want, and a signature art style that is absolutely unique!