Time marches on, and so does my look at Marvel Premiere! As the good Doctor is being drawn into a mad adventure through time, we see the emergence of a powerful mage named Cagliostro! This man is from the past seems to be so powerful, that Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo both seem to be jut pawns to him, but is he really who he claims to be? As the Doc and Baron Mordo attempt to convince Cagliostro that each of them is worthy of his attention, but he seemingly couldn’t care less!
Time travel can be one of those things that get terribly convoluted and quite frankly foolish. One man who has proved on more than one occasion that he’s up to the task of writing a good time travel story, is Steve Englehart. If this story isn’t enough, pick up a copy of the trade paperback, “Celestial Madonna” for another tale with the time-hopping Kang the Conqueror! Once again, Frank Brunner shows us how incredibly talented he is, by giving us another issue filled with fantasy and magic! Throw in the Crusty Bunkers (inks), John Costanza (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor), and you’ve got one fantastic creative team!
Some of you may be wondering why I skipped issue #11. Easy answer is because it basically just reprints the origin of Dr. Strange, by Ditko and Lee. Not that the material isn’t great, but that’s not what this is about. There was a little bridging material, where the Doc went to the former dwelling of the Ancient One, and told his followers that the master is dead. In this issue, the Doc runs into a bunch of gypsies, and a huge Gargoyle! The run of Doc Strange in this title was coming to an end soon, but Englehart and Brunner sure didn’t slow down with the excitement!
For reasons unknown to me, Mike Friedrich scripted some of this issue, and he’s obviously a capable writer, and left a good imprint wherever he traveled. We know that Englehart and Brunner were just getting started with the good Doctor, and they would bring him to new heights, never before seen. No disrespect to Ditko/Lee or Thomas/Colan, but this team set the tone for decades to come, and along with John Costanza lettering, and the Crusty Bunkers inks, this issue is another gem of the run!
You know something, writing about Dr. Strange, and actually comics in general is one of the most edifying things I can think of to share. Why is that, some of you may ask? Well, explaining it isn’t easy, but I’ll try. You see, the vast array of subject matter, the varying intensity of the stories, the mind-blowing artwork, and just the overall satisfaction of reading these great stories and then sharing them with those who might never have read them or even thought about reading them, is quite a thrill. Over the years, people have had differing opinions on comic books (speaking of those who have never read them). Most seem to think they’re for adolescents or weirdos, and just never give them a fair shake. That is nothing short of foolish, and I would guarantee that anyone that considers themselves a fan of fiction (even though most stories draw parallels to everyday events from history), would be impressed by the more complex works of the industries greats.
OK, mild diatribe over. Let us now forge our way into the past, and see the death of one of the Marvel Universe’s great characters. If you go back and read the wondrous stories of the early years, and origin of Dr. Strange, by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, you’ll see just how much of an influence the Ancient One was on Strange. When you understand that, you’ll know how difficult it was for Strange to kill his mentor. Possessed by Shuma-Gorath, the vile creature that intends on killing Dr. Strange, and invading the universe that he and the Ancient One protect!
In only their second issue together, Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner show us that they mix incredibly well as a creative team. Their styles seem to be a match made in heaven. Englehart at this point had already written some great stories as only the third person to write the Avengers title (after Lee and Roy Thomas). He proved that he was more than worthy of taking the reigns of any book and either continuing the greatness or amplifying it. It’s true that these issues (as with a majority of the Bronze Age) are very trippy, and if you don’t appreciate that kind of material, you might not find these stories to your liking. With that said, these two creators (along with the Crusty Bunkers inking, John Costanza lettering, and Roy Thomas, editor) do their best to present a story that is chocked full of action, drama, and of course, magic!
As my look at Marvel Premiere marches on (specifically the Dr. Strange issues), this issue is a momentous one because of the arrival of the new creative team going forward. Until now, a few different creators were involved, and they did an admirable job, but now, the theme takes a bit of a turn, and the Doc must not only continue to fight against Shuma-Gorath and its minions, but also try to deal with the death of his mentor, the Ancient One!
When I interviewed “Stainless” Steve Englehart (writer) about his fabled run with this character, he mentioned some late night brainstorming sessions between he and artist Frank Brunner (pencils on the interiors and the cover). How they would meet and carefully concoct where they wanted things to go, and why. I’ve been a part of other interviews before where a duo worked closely together on a certain title (Dan Abnett, about his work Andy Lanning), and it’s always fun to hear about these jam sessions between two great minds! The inks on this issue are by Ernie Chan, and he’s definitely one of my favorites from the decade. John Costanza (letters) and Dave Hunt (colors) round out the team on this fabulous first collaboration between two of comic book’s definitive creators from the Bronze Age!
You know, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that there was a better age than that of the Bronze Age of comic books. The mix of personalities, both in the books, and within the ranks of the creative offices were outstanding. When you realize all of the creators from previous ages that were still around, plus add in all the new, exciting talent that was making their way into the industry, you were privileged to see an age of entertainment that hasn’t happened since, and probably never will. In this next issue of Marvel Premiere, you get to see the Doc get out of the frying pan and into the fire! Trying to fight a cult, and the entity they worship was bad, but when you have a situation like this issue presents, it just doesn’t get any crazier! The Doc has escaped the clutches of the cult of Sligguth, but now faces another being that is even a bigger challenge because it lives underwater!
The creative team is similar to the previous issue, in that Gardner Fox is still writing. But, the pencils are now by Frank Brunner! And if that wasn’t groovy enough, you get Sal Buscema on inks! Throw in Gaspar Saladino on letters, Roy Thomas editing, and another great cover by Mike Ploog, and you a recipe for awesomeness!
Continuing with more of the Doctor Strange run in Marvel Premiere, this story is a continuation from the last, and shows the Doc fighting for his life against some crazy cult that has people looking like the Sleestak’s from Land of the Lost! These worshipers of evil also can apparently summon an unseen force to stop people, and even severely weaken the Sorcerer Supreme himself. So, in short, the Doc must overcome a lizard-like entity, his hundreds of hypnotized followers, and restore the town to its peaceful regularity, and oh yeah, all without hurting/killing any of the people who are enthralled! Yeesh!
This magnificent story, like the last issue, is loosely based off of a story by the legend himself, Robert E. Howard. The book’s creative team is nothing short of groovy as well! Writer extraordinaire, Gardner Fox, did very little work for Marvel Comics, but his overall contributions to the comic book industry are nothing short of Herculean. The pencils for this issue are by a man I’m not too familiar with (I’ve seen a couple of pages of his works in reprints of Golden/Silver Age horror/sci-fi stuff), but Irv Wesley (Sam Kweskin) did a fine job. One of the reasons I feel the artwork looks as good as it does, is from the inks of Don Perlin! I’m a big fan of his work, and you should be too! Rounding out the creative team is letter Sam Rosen, and editor Roy Thomas! Oh, and let us not forget the unbelievable cover by the one and only Mike Ploog!
Anyone that’s read any of my work knows I frequently salivate over certain creators, characters, and books. One of these things being Dr. Strange. Not just anything that the Doc has been in, but specifically his solo series from 1974, and his appearances in Marvel Premiere (1972). In issue #4, we see some material taken from the mind of Robert E. Howard (Conan, Kull, Red Sonja, etc.). In this adventure, the Doc has just survived a grave encounter with Nightmare, and now faces an even more vile thereat. An old friend has come calling about a problem in the New England area, and once there, Dr. Strange will meet his doom!
The creative team on this one is certainly top-notch. The story was written by “Amiable” Archie Goodwin, with the plot and editing by “Rascally” Roy Thomas. The pencils by none other than “Bashful” Barry Windsor-Smith, inks by “Far Out” Frank Brunner! Letters by John Costanza, and cover by BWS and Tom Palmer! Enjoy this classic tale from the past of Dr. Strange!
As we roll on through October, I thought it would be a good idea to spotlight one of the most iconic covers of the series, Marvel Premiere. Of course, you had many great covers, but this one really stood out from the crowd (they’ve even made it into a t-shirt!). I’ll admit right out of the gate, that the story isn’t the greatest, but it still has a certain cool factor thanks to the four characters that belong to this crazy group. Man-Thing, Werewolf By Night, Morbius, and Ghost Rider, all have a unique background, and mixing them together was a great idea, albeit one that could have also backfired. Luckily for us, the readers, it didn’t backfire, but gave us a groovy little story that shows brawls between these characters, plus all together against ‘Starseed.”
Written by Bill Mantlo (ROM, The Micronauts), pencils by Frank Robbins (The Invaders, Morbius), Steve Gan on inks, Janice Cohen on colors, letters by Gaspar and Karen Mantlo, edited by ‘Marvelous’ Marv Wolfman, and cover by Nick Cardy! When you see this cover, you’ll light up with glee, because just seeing those four characters together is like getting a present on Christmas morning…or Halloween night, in this case I guess!
After finally getting to meet George Perez this past year at NYCC (2013), I became an even bigger fan of his if that was even possible (click here to read my con coverage about Mr. Perez). This gentleman is an incredible hard working, dedicated fellow, that is super nice as well. He spent hours that day at the table signing, taking pictures, and doing commissions. The man didn’t leave the table for hours on end to keep his fans happy.
I first discovered his awesome pencils in the pages of The Avengers, and sought out more from that point. He really did it all over the years, both for Marvel and DC. Who can forget his work on Crisis on Infinite Earths! No matter what your tastes, George Perez has done something you will love! Take a peek at some of his cover work! Enjoy!
Does anything scream 1970’s more than Marvel Horror? Probably not, and that’s why I chose this wild cover for today! Meet the sister of Damon Hellstrom, Satana! In this issue, we see Satana, as she walks the mortal plane, in search of…who knows what? Anyway, she kills some people, fights off a demon, and looks rather sexy doing it, I might add. Written by Chris Claremont, pencils & inks by The Tribe, Marcos on letters, and Cohen on colors (Marv Wolfman-editor). Cover by Gil Kane! Enjoy!