Marvel Fanfare 20 and 21, 1985 “The Clash!”

For anyone that’s not aware, Marvel Fanfare is an incredibly awesome title. A sixty issue run that included a plethora of legendary creators, plus some up-and-comers as well. The stories varied from the macabre to straight up superhero tales, then sprinkle in some holiday themed narrative , and even the bizarre. There are certain names that in the comic book industry that are synonymous with the term bizarre (in a good way), and one of them for sure is Jim Starlin (story and pencils). In these two issues, he’s partnered with his oft time collaborator, Allen Milgrom (inks and some pencils/finishes).

The two-part story features Dr. Strange being accosted by his long time nemesis, Xandu! This powerful mage also has a multitude of minions in this story to help him carry out his devious doings. The good ol’ Doc reaches out to summon help in the form of the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing! The Doc is in a bad way, and only Ben Grimm and his power and bravery can help. The second part (issue 21), finds Dr. Strange trying to fight Xandu and referee a fight between The Thing and his long time antagonist The Hulk!

This story is one that features really cool artwork from Gemini (“Jim and I”, I being Al Milgrom,). All the characters look great, and these two creators work very well together. There are also some fantastic pin-ups in the back of issue twenty, most by Charles Vess, with a few by Carl Potts! Don’t sleep on this series, pick up the issues when possible!

 

Fantasy Masterpieces #14, 1980 (originally SS #14, 1970) “The Surfer and The Spider!”

Getting two superheroes to fight is usually an interesting trope, but sometimes it does border on the ludicrous. This one lies somewhere in the middle, so fasten your seat-belt. Spidey and the Surfer haven’t had a lot of contact, so the times they do meet are kind of cool. The story really revolves around a boy that’s enthralled by comic books, and heroes such as these two. He gets a little too close to the action though, and winds up nearly being killed! Don’t worry, Spidey and the Surfer have enough time even with fighting to save the youth!

The glorious days of Marvel in the late Silver/early Bronze Age is undeniable. The work that Stan “The Man” Lee (writer) and “Big” John Buscema (pencils) put in on this title is awesome. Dan Adkins did a great job inking this story, and Sam Rosen with the letters as well.  The grandeur of the Silver Surfer was never on better display than in this series! Just an FYI: You also get an issue of Warlock (#11), that is also a fantastic read (Kudos to Jim Starlin, Steve Leialoha, and Tom Orzechowski)!

 

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Fear #12, 1972 “No Choice of Colors!”

I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for classic Manny! No matter what the content, there’s just something about the character that draws me in, and really keeps me hooked through the entire issue. Not many other books/characters do that for me over and over. The fact that a character that can’t speak “speaks” to me abundantly, is quite telling about the brevity that the writers of this book had during the Bronze Age. Add in an element such as racism, and you get something very ambitious, and a very succinct reflection of the times.

As stated earlier, this character was written by people who had their finger on the pulse of the everyday joe. No one did this better than Steve Gerber (writer). No one wrote socially significant stories with a weird or macabre tone better than Steve Gerber. It’s not opinion, it’s fact. He had an innate ability to write these kinds of stories for many years without recycling them. The man was a genius. And as if that wasn’t enough to sell this book, you get art by the team of Jim Starlin (pencils- interiors and cover) and Rich Buckler (inks)! Both men have had long careers, and are still active today. Letters by John Costanza, and edited by Roy Thomas! Great cover by Starlin and the late, great Herb Trimpe, as well. Also, there’s a cool little reprint in the back that features art by none other than Russ Heath!

 

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Amazing Adventures #27, 1974 “The Death Breeders”

What better way to get back on track, then with a book based off of the works of H. G. Wells! In the 1970’s, Marvel adapted some stories from “War of the Worlds” in their Amazing Adventures title. They were nothing short of spectacular, and with the creators that were behind this wonderful run, it’s no wonder why they were so awesome. In this epic sci-fi story, we get Killraven, as his ship is attacked by a monstrosity from under the surface. He and his warrior friends must survive that, then free a captive woman who holds some answers they need!

Everything awesome about this issue starts with the cover. Let’s be honest, when you can get Jim Starlin to do a cover for a sci-fi story, you’re already guaranteed some buyers, even if the story and art on the inside are sub-par. But wait, they aren’t! Writer, Don McGregor, brings us this fantastic tale, and not to be outdone, is artist extraordinaire, P. Craig Russell! Jack Able on inks, Petra Goldberg on colors, and John Costanza lettering rounds out the creative team! Throw in Roy Thomas as editor, and you get a book that brings you everything you ever loved about the 1970’s!

 

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Fantasy Masterpieces #10, 1980 “A World He Never Made”

This issue is my first grab of this title, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of them! When you see the wondrous world that ‘Big’ John Buscema creates just in the first couple of pages, you’ll be awestruck. He can really make you believe that you’ve exited your body, and entered another world. His uncanny ability to capture characters, especially when they’re in an emotional distress, coupled with his great use of anatomy, is what made him so very special.

In this story, the Surfer is trying to further understand the human race, and that’s something that has proved most difficult for him since his former master, Galactus, banished him to Earth. After witnessing a cop trying to help a suicide attempt on a bridge, the Surfer dresses up like Dick Tracy to “blend in’, and assess mankind down among the people! He hangs out in South America for a while, but realizes that a militaristic group has taken control of the area, and will kill anything they deem untrustworthy. In a subplot, out in space (but nearing Earth), the beloved of the Silver Surfer, the beautiful Shalla Bal, is a passenger aboard the ship of Yarro Gort, and he means to embarrass the Surfer, and take Shalla Bal for his own!

A good story with powerful art! Buscema was such a master at anatomy, and facial expressions specifically. He really knew how to get everything out of a character in pain, or that was suffering. The back-up story is one I own in a couple of different formats, but it’s still very cool. Jim  Starlin gives us “The Terrible Trial of Adam Warlock” (Strange Tales #180, 1975), and the whole cast is here for the ride! Pip the Troll, Gamora, and the Universal Church of Truth! Other creators include – Dan Adkins (inker – SS story), Sam Rosen (letters – SS story), Stan Lee (writer – SS story), Tom Orzechowski (letters – Warlock story), Alan Weiss (inker), Len Wein (editor), and Danny Fingeroth (reprint editor)!

 

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The Life of Captain Marvel #1, 1985

With the recent release of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the name Jim Starlin is being brought back to prominence, and with good reason. He single-handedly revolutionized Marvel’s cosmic scene with his trippy space odysseys, and thought-provoking story lines.  Of course there were others that did justice to the cosmic stories back in the day (Neal Adams & Roy Thomas come to mind with their epic Kree/Skrull War story), but Starlin could write, pencil, color, and ink a story by himself, and it wasn’t schlock. One character in particular that he brought out of the darkness so to speak, was Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell). In Iron Man #55 (1973), Starlin gave us the dreaded Mad Titan, Thanos, and what he gift he was for the cosmic universe. We also see the Blood Brothers, and of course, Iron Man.

In 1985, Marvel released this book of three issues that were reprints of Iron Man #55, Captain Marvel #25 & 26 (1973). All three issues have Starlin’s imprint on them, and that cannot be denied. Mike Friedrich scripted the Captain Marvel issues, with Jim Starlin plotting (and coloring all three issues possibly as well?) where we see intrigue with the Skrulls, Thanos, and Captain Marvel punch out Ben Grimm! Take my word for it, and grab this reprint series (5 issues total), and catch up on some of Marvel’s greatest cosmic stories! Other credits include- Mike Esposito (inks- Iron Man #55), John Costanza (letters- Iron Man #55 & Capt. Marvel #26), Chic Stone (inks- Capt. Marvel #25), John Duffy (letters- Capt. Marvel #25), Dave Cockrum (inks- Capt. Marvel #26), and Roy Thomas (editor)!

 

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Marvel Premiere #8, 1973. “The Doom That Bloomed on Kathulos”

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As if Dr. Strange, Clea, and Stonehenge wasn’t enough, you get a story inspired by the fantasy legend, Robert E. Howard, scripted by Gardner Fox, pencils by Jim Starlin, and inks by Frank Giacoia! This A-list creative team brings us a tale of the good ‘ol Doc, as he and Clea have faced down trial after trial lately. In this issue, Strange finds out that not only must he face Kathulos in some dark, creepy dimension, but that if he does, waiting in the wings is his master Shuma-Gorath! We also see in flashback, these last few days, and its bizarre adventures. From an undersea nightmare, to another demon, spawned to serve Shuma-Gorath.

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Throughout the book, we get amazing work by Starlin, and it really shows how great he would have been on a title like this one. Don’t get me wrong, I love Frank Brunner, Gene Colan, and all the other artists on the different series, but the awesomeness of Starlin’s work cannot be denied! Just look at those panels, by Starlin, Giacoia, Hunt, and Goldberg! Let us not diminish the writing by comic book great, Gardner Fox! His Golden and Silver Age work is nothing short of astounding (JSA, Starman, Sandman, etc.)!

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Adapting the works of a great writer like Howard doesn’t hurt your chances at making something great either though. Howard’s countless creations (Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, etc.) have inspired hundreds of writers, artists, and authors for decades. And I’m sure they will for many more to come! See you soon!

Strange Tales #178- Featuring Warlock!

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I’m a huge fan of Jim Starlin’s work, and honestly, everyone should be! Just check out this spacey cover from 1975! The interiors are just as trippy, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better representation of this decade! Enjoy!