Marvel Spotlight 4, 1972 “Island of the Damned!”

During the 1970s, there were a few different things that were hot commodities. In comics, one of them for sure was horror. Vampires, monsters, demons, mummies, witches, and of course, werewolves! In 1972, Marvel decided to create their own werewolf character that would be not only a creature of destruction, but one of tragedy as well. Jack Russell would turn twenty-one years old, and turn into a werewolf under a full moon from here on out.

Early on, the book centered around Jack trying to figure out why this happened to him. He very quickly realized that a certain book was involved, and that unless he finds The Darkhold, he may never get any answers. In what’s basically a werewolf dropped in the middle of the Island of Dr. Moreau, Jack is confronted by a strange island full of surprises, and by the end of the issue, he’ll be between a rock and a hard place.

In this early second age of horror for Marvel comics, Gerry Conway (writer) is one of the men that was tasked with writing these titles off and on (between his epic Spider-Man run and other superhero titles as well). Not to belittle Conway’s efforts, but Mike Ploog (cover and interior art) was outstanding during this period with his horror work. He had runs on this title/character, Monster of Frankenstein, Man-Thing, and Ghost Rider, and they were all exquisite. The creative team is rounded out by veteran Sam Rosen (letters).

*Note- there was also a lot of input on the early issues of the horror books by Writer/Editor Roy Thomas, and he definitely deserves credit as well.

 

 

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Marvel Spotlight 7, 1972 “Die, Die My Daughter!”

In the 1970s, there wasn’t a better time for comic book readers. You had Golden and Silver Age creators still pumping out material, but you also had younger writers and artists that had been inspired by those giants, and were determined to leave their own mark on the industry. There’s also another aspect to consider as far as the content, and that is what was in the zeitgeist of the times. One of those things was most certainly the occult. Marvel then decided to re-purpose a character from a western comic that was all but forgotten. His name was the Ghost Rider (later Phantom Rider), and this time around, he wasn’t going to be lassoing people or shooting at them with a six-shooter!

In Marvel Spotlight 5 (a lot of the newer characters started off in books like this one and once they proved themselves, were transitioned to their own book), we see the tragic story of Johnny Blaze. A young kid working at a carnival, and watching his father doing motorcycle stunts. His father ends up getting killed in an accident, and the carnival owners (The Simpsons…no, not Homer and Marge) adopt him. The show becomes a huge success but then his step-mother is killed, but right before she dies, she makes Johnny promise he won’t ride in the show anymore. He doesn’t ride but the show still gets even bigger than it was before. Johnny still practices privately, and becomes an excellent rider. One day, Crash Simpson gets a phone call and he’s made the big time, as his show will be at Madison Square Garden! He seems less than excited and then tells Johnny and Roxanne that he has “the disease” and the doctor told him he only has one month to live.

After thinking about this for thirty seconds, Johnny decides as any normal teenage in the 1970s would, he uses a book to summon “Satan” to grant him a wish to heal Crash Simpson (Satan is in quotes because Marvel would later retcon it wasn’t actually Satan himself, but a demon). Yes, he really did that…so, then “Satan” obliges him and tells him that he’ll be back to collect a fee in the future. We all know that means he’s in big trouble, but Johnny apparently doesn’t care because of dealing with the grief of his own father and step-mother dying. Of course, Crash dies not from cancer, but a motorcycle accident.  Then Johnny makes the jump, but is later confronted by “Satan” and his soul is bonded to a demon, which in-turn is why he changes into the new Ghost Rider!

In this issue, we see Johnny after a man named Curly, but we eventually see it’s actually a reanimated Crash Simpson! Curly is trying to sacrifice Roxanne to his master (again “Satan”), but Johnny will not allow the love of his life to perish! He fights off some occultists, then has a showdown with Crash himself!

The creative team on this issue is the same since the first appearance. Gary Friedrich (writer), Mike Ploog (art), Frank Chiaramonte (inks), Herb Cooper (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor). A few years back, there was a little controversy over who actually created most of the character of Ghost Rider. Friedrich claimed he did, and sued Marvel for creators rights. He lost of course, simply because everything was work for hire back then, and any attempts to seize control of a character simply fell short. Sadly, a lot of these creators have fallen on hard times, and could really use a helping hand from the companies that they helped become so financially robust. There is a great organization called The Hero Initiative, that can help creators in need. Definitely swing by and donate if you can at the next convention you visit.

 

 

 

Marvel Spotlight 26, 1975 “Death Waters of the River Styx”

Goofball villains are a thing of beauty. Any writer/artist that can make them interesting enough to buy a comic that has them in it, is a genius. Throw in some extra-dimensional demons, a chick that knows martial arts from her “street fighting” days, and some slap-stick comedy, and you’ve got a winner. Even though the Scarecrow only made a few sparse appearances, he’s definitely one of my all time favorites!

Scott Edelman (writer), a bit of a journeyman writer that really didn’t have any long runs on one title. He’s one of those guys that wrote for many titles in his career (mostly Bronze Age), filling in and doing one-shots. Artist Ruben Yandoc (pencils and inks), didn’t have a very long career, but did do most of his work for DC comics (after a career in the Philippines, apparently). Colorist, Petra Goldberg, letter, San Jose, and editor Marv Wolfman, round out the interior team! Although I don’t care for his later work, Howard Chaykin (pencils) has done some outstanding work from the Bronze Age, and along with Al Milgrom (inker), they provide a solid cover, showing just how crazy this character can be!

 

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Marvel Spotlight #25, 1975 “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad”

In honor of one of my favorite filmmakers (yeah, I know he was just labeled as the “special effects” guy, but get real, those movies wouldn’t exist without him), Ray Harryhausen, I’ll be taking a look at Marvel Spotlight #25 (1975)! In this issue, we see an adaptation of “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad,” which was one of Ray’s crowning achievements, in this bloggers humble opinion. Marvel decided to put that incredible movie into comic book format, and it delivers! We join Sinbad on the high seas, then see him battle a giant Cyclops, an unbelievable, fire-breathing dragon, and even a skeleton! Any fan of this movie must own this comic book!

Marvel selected quite a solid creative team for this one, and although these creators aren’t the biggest names from that decade, anyone that cares to research them will find out that they did some phenomenal work over their careers! Writer – John Warner (Son of Satan, Rampaging Hulk), pencils & inks – Sonny Trinidad (Marvel Classics, Marvel B&W Mags), colors by Petra Goldberg, letters by Jim Novak, edited by Marv Wolfman, and cover by Gil Kane! Take a look at these awesome pages!

 

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Marvel Spotlight #4, 1972 “Island of the Damned!”

Although there’s no specific reference in the comic book itself, Marvel Spotlight #4 (1972) is definitely an homage to the H.G. Wells book “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” That fantastic story has been adapted to the big screen a few times, with varying results, but in this case, it was a resounding success. The issue is only the third appearance of this character (Jack Russell/ the werewolf), and his supporting cast, but you already feel attached to him and his troubled life even in that short amount of time. The story follows Jack to an island, almost like the very same one in the Wells book.

If there was ever any doubt about the talent of Gerry Conway (and just for Spider-Man, there shouldn’t be), read his horror work, and you’ll be hard-pressed to not be impressed by his work. As if that wasn’t enough of a selling point, you get the absolutely eerie artwork of Mike Ploog, that is nothing short of a visual feast! Toss in the letters of comic book mainstay, Sam Rosen, and you’ve got one heckuva comic book!

 

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