The Mighty Marvel Western 6, 1969 “Doom in the Desert!”

I felt compelled to spotlight some Westerns for the month of July, as some Twitter friends have christened it #westerncomicsmonth! Search this hashtag out on Twitter for all the fun. Honestly, they really aren’t my thing, and I only have half a dozen issues or so, but I can’t resist joining in, as these Twitter pals know how to have a good time.

This oversized issue has four big stories, two awesome pinups (I’ll include both at the bottom, both are Kirby pencils, Ayers and Colletta inks, respectively), and cool advertisements! And check out this cool cover by Herb Trimpe!

 

First up is the story from the cover, “Doom in the Desert!” It features the Rawhide Kid, and after he wins a sharp shooting contest, he’s going to give the prize money to a widow, but after he does, he finds himself in the desert and out of water, and at the mercy of some toughs! Story by Stan Lee, art by Jack “King” Kirby and Dick Ayers!

 

Next is “The Saga of Sam Hawk, Manhunter!” Kid Colt is the star of this story, and the Manhunter is out to get him! Betrayal, Native American warriors, and a twist ending you won’t see coming! Story by Stan Lee, art by Jack Keller, and letters by Sam Rosen!

 

Now, for the third star of this book, The Two-Gun Kid, in “Trapped by Ringo’s Raiders!” No, the Beatles aren’t in this one, but we do get a bank robbery attempt, a prison break, and a whole lotta action! Written by Stan Lee, art by Dick Ayers, and letters by Sam Rosen.

 

Lastly, the Rawhide Kid stars in “Shootout with Rock Rorick!” The Kid jumps into a bar fight, but has he finally bitten off more than he can chew messing with the gang of Rock Rorick? Script by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers, and letters by Artie Simek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel’s Unsung Heroes: David Anthony Kraft

Writing about creators that I never interacted with, and/or that have been gone from this Earth a long time, is never a difficult thing for me to do. It is however, the complete opposite feeling when someone passes away I’ve had time with talking about this medium I love. David Anthony Kraft, or more appropriately, DAK!, has been a creator I interacted with online now for a few years. He was extremely cordial to the unknown people on the other end of a fiber optic cable, so much so that I thought he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met online.

I’d seen this name (DAK) in comic books from my favorite era, the Bronze Age, quite often as a fill-in writer, or as an editor. Getting to know him though, he shed a good bit of light on quite a few times where he did work, but didn’t receive credit (not for some nefarious reason, just because those were the times). Even doing some layouts/sketch ideas for covers and splash pages. This really made me look at his work in a very different way. It also made me go back and read some of these examples he recounted. He was always answering questions from fans, and almost always tagging people that he loved, especially Don McGregor (another great guy).

His window in the comics biz wasn’t decades long, and he’s probably most known for his comics magazine, Comics Interview (click here for an interview he did with Comic Book Historians). Here are a few off-beat selections from the Bronze Age. Godspeed, DAK!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Werewolf by Night 9, 1973 “Terror Beneath the Earth!”

Well, the day finally came. The day that I finally bought the first appearance of my favorite wacky Bronze Age villain! As some of you know, there was a podcast episode where my partner and I discussed our Top 5 Wacky Bronze Age Villains! If you haven’t listened to that one yet, please do, and I’ll only say that this guy is my number one, but I won’t reveal the others! The Tatterdemalion is  by far the craziest villain for me and he really is an oddity.

In this first appearance, he’s more of a sinister villain that’s on a mission for a “higher power.” The higher power is called Sarnak, and for some insidious reason, he wants the Werewolf! The first attempt to kidnap Jack doesn’t go well, but after a night in jail, Jack gets accosted a second time by the Tatterdemalion, and some other hellish goons!

This crazy tale was written by Gerry Conway, a guy more known for writing drama like “The Death of Gwen Stacy.” He can write any genre though, and this horror story is proof. The artwork is a huge part of why this one is awesome though, and we have Tom Sutton to thank for that (and the letters, and cover along with Frank Giacoia inking)! Some very vibrant colors by George Roussos, and editor Roy Thomas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conan The Barbarian King Size 1, 1973 “The Tower of the Elephant!”

Conan, a character that’s been in publication since 1932…think about that for a minute. The Great Depression, angst, suicides by businessmen losing their life savings, five years before Tolkien published The Hobbit, and a lifetime before creators gave us galaxies far, far away, Robert E. Howard created an entire world. The contributions this man gave the world are still terribly underappreciated. Anyone that’s not very familiar with his work, definitely give a look at his biography here.

When Roy Thomas secured the rights to publisher Conan from the REH estate, the greatness was there immediately. With Roy Thomas writing, and Barry (Windsor) Smith (and most notably Sal Buscema inking, with others) on art, the character was off and running! What followed the great run by BWS wasn’t half bad either (some say even better), but that’s a tale for another day. You get material from the second and fourth issues of the series in this book and both are legendary stories by Howard!

 

 

A Steve Ditko tribute!

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 overstatement, 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!

 

 

 

 

Masters of Terror 1, 1975

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!

 

 

A Tribute to Paul Ryan (R.I.P.)!

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!

 

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Giant-Size Werewolf 5, 1975 “The Plunder of Paingloss”

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!

 

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The Wedding of Dracula (1991- Originally 1974-76) “Blood Rites”

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!

 

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Giant-Size Man-Thing 5, 1975 “Hellcow!”

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!

 

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