The giants are leaving us. There is no two ways about it, and a small part of me gets angry about that fact for a couple of reasons. First, because I didn’t get to meet most of them, and secondly because not enough attention is given to these brilliant creators until they pass away (except in the small community of hardcore comic book fans). A great bit of sadness fell over me when I hard of the passing of Steve Ditko.
Whether you believe it or not, the man created Spider-Man (with a bit of direction from Stan Lee), and all the classic villains that were a huge part of making the hero what he was in the comic books. He also created (co-created, depending on your opinion) my personal favorite character Dr. Strange. Not to mention The Creeper, Hawk and Dove, Speedball, The Question, Mr. A., and so on. To call him a genius is no understatement, and just a glance at his creativity on paper is all the proof you’ll need. Monsters, Superheroes, Science fiction, horror, humor, etc., he did it all.
Why he left comics doesn’t matter, nor his personal beliefs. He was a kind man, that kept to himself and hurt no one. He gave us his imagination for a long time and we should all be grateful for that! Godspeed, Sturdy Steve!
The black and white magazines from the Bronze Age have so much great material in them! Even if you don’t like horror comics, you can get Conan, The Hulk, etc., but trust me, the horror books are outstanding. Most have excellent artwork, and solid stories as well. Speaking of storytelling, What if I told you (yes, that was in my Laurence Fishburne voice) that Marvel one produced a magazine with names like Robert Bloch (Psycho), Robert E. Howard (Conan), H.P. Lovecraft (The Call of Cthulhu), and Theodore Sturgeon (More than Human). Would you believe me? Well luckily you don’t have to take my word for it. In this issue of Masters of Terror, that incredible list of writers are coupled with top artist of that era, and the results is mind-numbing.
The artistic talent is a murderers row if there ever was one. Marie Severin and Frank Giacoia show us a monster (It! adapted by Roy Thomas) that definitely inspired The Heap, Man-Thing, and Swamp Thing! The second tale is brought to us by Frank Brunner (story adapted by Gardner Fox), and anyone that’s read this blog (or anything else I’ve written about him)knows how much praise I’ll heap on the artwork of Frank Brunner (his collaboration with Steve Englehart on Dr. Strange/Marvel Premiere is a masterpiece). The Lovecraft adaptation has Roy Thomas scripting, and a powerhouse team on art that includes Barry Smith, Dan Adkins, and John Verpoorten! The next adaptation is scripted by Ron Goulart, and the art team is the incredibly talented duo of Jim Starlin and Tom Palmer! Finally, Ron Goulart, Gil Kane, and Ralph Reese bring a story about Jack the Ripper!
All of these stories are reprints that appeared in other titles before. Even the cover is a reproduction by Gray Morrow (from a cover by Jim Steranko – Supernatural Thrillers 1, 1972). Another lesser known story in this issue that was adapted (originally by August Derleth) is called The Drifting Snow. Tony Isabella and Esteban Maroto deliver an absolute gem with this story. You will love this story because it’s very suspenseful and creepy!
After learning of the recent passing of artist, Paul Ryan, I thought it most fitting to give him a grand send-off from my blog. I’d become friends with him on Facebook, and thought he was a very genuine man who had good values, and was a very under-appreciated artist. I don’t own any of his DC work, only some of his Marvel jobs. So, this one will be all Marvel! The first three are from the back pages of Marvel Fanfare 52 (1990), the rest are from various issues of the Avengers (inks by Tom Palmer)! Godspeed, Paul!
In my time-honored tradition of spotlighting goofball villains, this one is a doosie! When the front cover of a comic book exclaims…”The Peril of Paingloss,” it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re in for something wacky. That said, Werewolf by Night could fight a troupe of clowns and I’d buy it, so maybe I’m not the best measuring stick for this one. Moving on, Jack Russell and his confidant, Buck Cowan, end up embroiled in some mystical mayhem that almost kills the two of them! Yes, by the mighty Paingloss (try to hold back your laughter)!
I didn’t know who the creative team was on this one until I got it home and checked it out. I wasn’t shocked to see the name Doug Moench (writer) in the credits. He did plenty of work on this title and during this period for Marvel. You could always count on a solid script/story with him at the helm. The artist is one that I’ve seen before, maybe once or twice, and Yong Montano (pencils/inks) definitely delivered in this issue. The letterer is another name that doesn’t evoke the Bronze Age feel, but Marcos Pelayo does a fine job. The rest of the cast is the usual bunch of stalwarts in Len Wein (editor), George Roussos (colors), and a wonderful cover by Gil Kane (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks)! There are a couple of back-ups as well, and one features art by the legendary, Joe Orlando!
It’s time once again, to spotlight the best comic book title from the Bronze Age! Yes, you read that correctly. Not the best horror comic, THE best comic book, period. The Tomb of Dracula ran for 70 issues, from 1972 until 1979, and was without a doubt one of the best series ever. This little reprint book from 1992 has three issues in it. Two of the issues are back to back (45-46) and one is a standalone (30). The two consecutive issues revolve around Dracula using his influence on a satanic cult, and getting married. Good stuff, but I love the standalone issue better. That one shows Dracula reminiscing about some adventures he had in the past. One in particular where he meets a blind girl is quite fascinating.
The dream team of Marv Wolfman (writer), Gene Colan (pencils), and Tom Palmer (inks and colors), was in place for a while when these issues were published. They were on a roll by this point, and churning out fantastic stories. You add John Costanza (letters), and the crew is complete. This creative team would go on for 70 issues total in this series, and Wolfman and Colan would do more Dracula work in the future as well (Tomb of Dracula, 1991-92 – Epic, and The Curse of Dracula, 1998 – Dark Horse). Whatever the format, get out and grab one of the best books around!
I know it’s heresy to say this being a big fan of Steve Gerber’s work, but I’m not really into Howard the Duck. That said, I do love horror stories, and most of them revolving around that character do fit into this genre. In this one for instance, we get to see Howard arrested, and in jail. The police are befuddled that a real duck is in their midst, and quite frankly have no idea what to do with him. The best part of the story lies with another character though, the Hellcow. Apparently, at a certain point in the life of Dracula, he swooped in and bit a cow. Normally, you don’t see animals come back as vampires but for some insane reason, this one does.
As I said above, Steve Gerber (writer) is nothing sort of fantastic. He can take the oddest of themes and turn them into gold. His work on The Defenders, Omega the Unknown, and several other books are all the proof that I need to prove that point. Another creator of this era that did incredible work, is artist, Frank Brunner (penciler). Even though he didn’t do a ton of work in comics, his impression on the industry is a lasting one, for sure. Tom Palmer (inks), Glynis Wein (colors), and Annette Kawecki (letters), finish off the creative team for this outstanding story! Of course, everyone knows of the fantastic work by Palmer, as he inked many books, and none more appreciated than his collaborations with Gene Colan in Tomb of Dracula!
I’ve read a couple of good chunks of Ghost Rider (volume one), and a scant few issues of the other series throughout the years. Nothing resonates with me except the earlier stuff with Johnny Blaze. Why? I don’t know, but I can tell you that the earlier work not only dealt with the horror genre but also the biker gang phase of culture in the 1970’s as well. It may be the mystery that was so exhilarating, coupled with the horror angle, but whatever it was, it sticks with you. The very early work was tied in with Daimon Hellstrom (the Son of Satan), which also added a really cool vibe to the character. This issue (I showcased the previous one here) has Johnny still an amnesiac, and fawning over a girl named Gina. There usually was a girl who would pop up now and again, to try the romance angle, but most of them were flat compared to Roxanne Simpson.
The name Michael Fleisher (writer) isn’t one that is tossed around everyday. He had a pretty good run on this title ( as well as Conan, House of Mystery, and House of Secrets), but mostly fill-ins and such. Don Perlin (pencils and inks) is a man who I admire. Another name that’s usually lost among the titans, but one that everyone should know. Anyone that frequents my blog knows him name though! Diana Albers (letters) and Ben Sean (colors), round out the creative team. Not to be forgotten are the two Bob’s! Bob Budiansky (pencils) and Bob Wiacek (inks) gave us this cool cover!
I’ll admit, I really don’t care for “What If?” and you can dislike me for it. They can be fun, oh yes, but it just isn’t what I’m looking for in a comic book. That said, when you get a chance to grab an issue like this one, you cannot possibly pass it up! Seeing Lee and Kirby as Reed and the Thing, is enormous fun, and throw in Sol Brodsky as the Human Torch, and “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg as the Invisible Girl, and the book has to be a good one!
To see the pencils of Jack “King” Kirby, is nothing short of fascinating, no matter what the subject-matter. As the writer, penciler, and editor, he really went all in with this book, and gave us something special. The inks were by Mike Royer, and if you’ve seen their collaboration on DC comics “The Demon,” you know what they can do together. The letters were by Bill Wray and colors by Carl Gafford. If you get the chance, grab a copy if for nothing other than the Kirby artwork, it’s astonishing!
There are many creators that made their mark in the Bronze Age, and some that ascended from an embryonic stage to stardom. Of course, these men and women didn’t realize it back in the day, but decades later, others like myself revel in their works, and hold them in high esteem for it! A title that most certainly gave opportunity for those willing to work on it was Dr. Strange! Think about it. Limitless worlds, characters, scenarios, etc., that was a springboard for the imaginations of its creators that had the wherewithal to use.
One of those above mentioned creators without a doubt, is P. Craig Russell (co-plotter, pencils, inks, colors)! This man’s work is nothing short of extraordinary to say the least. His run on Amazing Adventures is the stuff of legend. His inks over the pencils of Gil Kane (Marvel Fanfare) are noteworthy as well. As with many books of that era, Marv Wolfman (script and co-plot) lent his tremendous skills as a writer, and joined Russell in creating a gem. Letters by John Costanza, and a fantastic cover by none other than Dave Cockrum!
After two solid runs (one by Gary Friedrich and the other by Gerry Conway) on this title, the book was in need of another direction. The days of Cap fighting Nazis and Commies was over, and the character was basically spinning his wheels. Sure, you had some good stories in the Avengers, but his solo book was about to be redirected and there would be no going back. The issue before this one started a storyline where Cap had seemingly turned into a flaming racist, and his old partner (believed dead after this retcon story) Bucky was also back and spouting racist remarks towards the Falcon. It was an obvious imposter, but who are these two, and how do they know so much about the history of the star-spangled Avenger?
When “Stainless”Steve Englehart (writer) took over this book, most probably had no clue what was in store, and what a wild ride it was! Add into the mix “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (interior pencils and cover, inks by Frank Giacoia) and “Jumbo” John Verpoorten (inks), as the art team, John Costanza letters, and Roy Thomas editing, and you get one of the best the Bronze Age has to offer!