Marvel Fanfare 6, 1983 “Switch Witch”

It’s once again time to talk a walk on the  Strange side of Marvel Comics! The title Marvel Fanfare was one that not only featured some up and coming creators, but also characters that didn’t get a ton of airplay or were displaced from a title, with no home. The first story (“Switch Witch”, by Mike Barr – plot/script, Sandy Plunkett – pencils/plot, P. Craig Russell – inks, Jim Novak – letters, and Petra Goldberg – colors)does have Spider-Man in it, but the story also features The Scarlet Witch, and the evil sorcerer Xandu! It’s a tale where Xandu uses his sorcery to place Wanda’s soul inside the body of Melinda Morrison, in the Death Dimension. All because Melinda had previously died (but he kept her body “warm”…yes, creepy) and wants to marry her.

The second story in this issue, gives us “The Showdown!” We see a young upstart sorcerer, Ian McNee, challenge The Sorcerer Supreme himself, Dr. Strange! The young man finds out rather quickly that what you think you want isn’t necessarily something you are ready for! Roger Stern (writer), Charles Vess (art), Ron Zalme (letters), and Glynis Wein (colors) are the great creative team behind this excellent chapter in the Doc’s life.

The stories were edited by Allen Milgrom (Mr. Everything at Marvel), and the magnificent front cover is by P. Craig Russell! Not to be outdone, we get an equally awesome back cover by Charles Vess!

 

 

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!

 

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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Marvel Fanfare #5, 1982 “To Steal the Sorcerer’s Soul!” and “Shall Freedom Endure…”

A title that gets barely any attention but really resonates with me is Marvel Fanfare. I’m typically not a big anthology book guy, but this one always intrigued me. More often than not, you got solid creators, great characters, and some awesome wrap-around covers! The stories also seemed to be quirky in some way, but not off-putting in any way. Take this issue for example. You get two stories, the first being a Dr. Strange and Clea adventure, as Nicodemus has returned, and threatens to usurp the Doc as the supreme magical being in the universe! The second tale is one that shows Cap and Bucky in a battle during WWII. Not your typical battle though, and by the end, we get to see Cap in a Nazi uniform beating on a Nazi wearing his costume!

The cover is one that is fascinating, and we have Marshall Rogers and P. Craig Russell to thank for that! Both men have worked on the character of Dr. Strange before, and this is another feather in their caps! The story about Dr. Strange features Chris Claremont (writer), Rogers and Russell on art (pencils and inks, respectively), Bob Sharen (colors), Joe Rosen (letters), and Al Milgrom (editor, both stories). The Captain America story has “Ramblin'” Roger McKenzie (writer), Luke McDonnell (pencils), John Beatty (inks), Glynis Wein (colors), and Diana Albers (letters). Get to the shop and grab some issues from this series, you wont be disappointed!

 

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Marvel Fanfare #1, 1982 “Snow”

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! As I write this post a few days before the “big day,” I wanted to toss out a holiday themed story, and this one is great! Everybody loves Santa Claus, and nobody would want to see him hurt, but in this story, he gets mugged by some thugs, and it’s up to Daredevil to stop this senseless violence in the streets of Hells Kitchen! Some good humor in the story as well, when Heather and Debbie coerce Foggy into playing Santa Claus for some kids because the regular guy backed out! Great stuff to contrast this gritty story!

One of the most underrated guys in the biz, is without a doubt, Roger McKenzie. This guy preceded Frank Miller on Daredevil (he actually wrote some great stories before Miller was writer, and was doing pencils), and for that, he gets overshadowed, but certainly shouldn’t be! Trust me and check out those stories! The artistic team of Paul Smith and Terry Austin bring their “A” game for this story, but that’s no surprise as that team always seemed to gel. Throw in Marvel stalwart colorist Glynis Wein, and letterer Shelly Leferman, and don’t forget the always reliable editor Al Milgrom, to round out the creative team on this holiday treat! Cover by Frank Miller! Enjoy!

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Marvel’s Unsung Heroes! -Don Heck!

Back in the very early days of Marvel Comics, there were only a couple of employees, and a few “work for hire” guys. We know of Lee, Kirby, and Ditko, but there was another face that was there from beginning as well. His name is Don Heck, and this man is responsible for co-creating many of our favorite characters (Hawkeye, Black Widow, The Mandarin, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Count Nefaria, The Swordsman, The Collector, Living Laser, Black Goliath, and Mantis)…yeah, you get the point. If not for his work the movies that now dazzle us a couple of times a year, would be less inviting, for sure.

His work on the Avengers really stands out for me personally, but not to be missed are his renditions of Dracula and Dr. Strange, too! Don passed away in 1995, from lung cancer. He may be gone, but his magnificent work lives on! I mean, who else could draw Morbius tossing a crab into the ocean or Dracula fighting a giant heart? So, here’s to you, Don Heck, may your work live on forever!

 

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Marvel’s Unsung Heroes! -Ron Wilson!

Of course everyone knows names like Kirby, Buscema, Romita, and Colan, but there is a plethora of other guys (and girls), that need to be given a great deal of credit for the success of Marvel Comics. These others helped forge a new pathway, and their number needs to be counted. So, for the month of April, I’ll be spotlighting some of the work that these unsung heroes gave us all to enjoy over the years!

I’ll be presenting these in no specific order,  but rest assured, we’ll get a peek at a few names that you should recognize! First up is Ron Wilson, because his pencils have always been a favorite of mine, and I think he deserves more respect than he’s gotten over the years. From his great run on titles like Marvel Two-in-One, to more obscure titles like Chamber of Chills, you’ll see it all in this post! Enjoy!

 

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‘Big’ John Buscema -Finale!

To finish off my week-long tribute to ‘Big’ John Buscema, I’m going to go with three great covers, and then some more crazy good interiors by the legend himself! So, sit back, relax, grab a cold one, and get ready to be dazzled by a man who will always be on my Mount Rushmore of artists (Colan, Kirby, Buscema, Romita)! This first cover, is one that’s been on my want list for a while, and I recently acquired it and absolutely love this one! Enjoy!

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Marvel Fanfare #3, 1982. “Into the Land of Death”

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There are lots of names that pop into my head when I think of this title, but the first arc (4 issues), definitely stands out in my head. Why? Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, that’s why! Just look at this awesome cover, and the interior art is just as incredible. The story by Claremont is also one for the ages, but don’t take my word for it, get out there and either buy the single issues or the trade paperback! The X-Men, Spider-Man, Ka-Zar, and Sauron, all fighting it out in the Savage Land! Enjoy!