Spectacular Spider-Man 7 and 8, 1977 “Menace is the Man Called Morbius!”

Two enemies, that have seemingly forever been locked in combat. One, a science geek barely out of high school, that was endowed with spider-like powers due to the bite of a radioactive spider. The other is a scientist that was a victim of his own experiments, and through them turned into a vampire like creature that feeds on human blood. Spider-Man and Morbius. Both men with their own problems, and no solutions other than to do what they must. In these two issues, you get to see a fierce battle between these two, but also some interesting moments with MJ and Aunt May.

I’m not a big fan of the surprise “villain” or the deus ex machina in this one. That being said, I am a big fan of Archie Goodwin (writer/editor), and all the work he’s done over the decades. Whether it was his work for Warren Publishing, DC, or Marvel, he was always a reliable scripter. Next we have penciler Sal Buscema. Most people probably think of his run on Spectacular Spider-Man (with J.M. DeMatteis, and rightly so), but definitely seek out his work on The Defenders. His style fit that strange book perfectly. Inkers Jim Mooney (7), and Mike Esposito (8), are both a good fit for Sal’s pencils as neither takes away from them but adds their own touch. Letters on both issues were by John Costanza, and colors by Don Warfield (7) and Marie Severin (8), all add their usual talents to the books. The covers are both very good, as number seven has Dave Cockrum and Al Milgrom show the absolute ferocity of Morbius. The next issue has a young artist you should recognize in Paul Gulacy. He’s mostly heralded for his Master of Kung Fu work.

 

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Adventure into Fear 24, 1974 “Return to Terror!”

Time to crank up the weird on my computer, and offer another installment of Adventure into Fear! This book brings another chapter of the life of Morbius, the Living Vampire! He’s kind of weird character himself, but throw in a creature from another world that has a giant eyeball for a head, and sprinkle in a little blaxploitation with Blade the vampire hunter, and you get more Marvel Bronze Age madness!

The story is somewhat of a continuation from the previous issue, but then shifts quickly to “several weeks later” and an encounter between Morbius and Blade. Death, destruction, violence, cat people, etc., this one has it all! There is also a back up reprint story (“The Two-Faced Man“) with art by the legendary Joe Maneely!

The story was written by Steve Gerber, with art by P. Craig Russell (pencils) and Jack Abel (inks). George Roussos (colors), Jean Simek (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor) round out the creative team on the inside, but don’t forget that incredible cover by Gil Kane and John Romita!

 

Adventure into Fear 23, 1974 “Alone Against Arcturus!”

One of the easiest things to do is spotlight a comic book with a great creative team. This comic is very easy because the team consists of two of the best from the Bronze Age. Throw in an insane vampire, lost in some bizarre world he doesn’t understand, and voilà, awesomeness! So we see the man called Morbius, as he’s hazy about where he is and what’s going on. He comes upon two lovers, and the shenanigans ensue.

The title known as Adventures into Fear (only Fear in the indicia), was a reprint book in the beginnings but after the ninth issue, it switched to new horror material (featuring Man-Thing). After the nineteenth issue, Morbius, the Living Vampire took over! The man who wrote/plotted most of the stories (Man-Thing included) in Fear, was none other than Steve Gerber. Gerber really shined during his tenure at Marvel comics, and it’s a shame things ended the way they did, but at least we have the great comics we do! Art by P. Craig Russell (pencils) and Vince Colletta (inks), colors by George Roussos, and letters by Tom Orzechowski. The art in this one is fantastic, and really shows how the vampire is in different moods. Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer! There is also a neat little reprint in the back of the book as well that features art by Gene Colan!

 

 

Fear 20, 1973 “Morbius the Living Vampire!”

The title “Fear,” was one that started out as a reprint vehicle for the giant monsters of the Atlas Age Comics. These stories featured work from some giants of the industry- Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Russ Heath, Gene Colan, and more. The book eventually morphed into one that contained all new material, starting with issue ten, and the Man-Thing, the book took a turn. We now saw new material, and material with an edge that had previously been unseen in the title (and most mainstream comics). In this story, Morbius is in the midst of a blood-lust, and attacks a woman. He then recounts his last few adventures (against the X-Men and a solo story), then meets two holy men. He seems to be calmed by their presence, but we soon find out why, and that one of these two men is not quite what he seems!

He doesn’t get much credit, but Mike Friedrich (writer) has made a few very nice contributions to the comic book industry over the years, and deserves a high-five for them!  I’m not sure, but this has to be one of the first works of Paul Gulacy (pencils) in the biz. He’s one of those guys that’s done a wide variety of work on both sides of the street. Jack Abel (inks) is a name I know from his contributions on Tomb of Dracula. He was active in the 1950’s and didn’t let up until the 1990’s. Marvel staples Tom Orzechowski (letters) and George Roussos (colors) are two more reasons that most of what Marvel published during the Bronze Age was incredibly consistent (plus Roy Thomas – editor). King of the covers, Gil Kane (pencils), and his oft collaborator, Frank Giacoia (inks), bring this fabulous cover to life!

 

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Spectacular Spider-Man 38, 1979 “Curse of the Living Vampire!”

I love vampires! From the first time I saw Bela Lugosi, and most certainly once I saw Sir Christopher Lee as the fearful Count Dracula, I was hooked. The first vampire I saw in a comic book though, was Morbius! His origin story was foreign to me, but it didn’t matter. He was scary, and more than a match for Spidey. In this issue, Morbius and Spidey clash at a costume party, and we also see the vampire attack a group of kids! His blood lust knows no boundaries, and he will not stop until it is satiated!

The creative team on this book is comprised of some of my favorites! Bill Mantlo (writer), is one of the most underrated writers of all time. He gets a nod for ROM from hardcore fans, but not much else. That needs to change, because when you look at his work as a whole, you can get more of a grasp on his wonderful contributions over the years. Not to be outdone, is the art team of Sal Buscema (pencils) and Chic Stone (inks). Both men are very skilled and were absolute pillars in the comic book industry for a long time. Bob Sharen is another name that everyone who’s a fan of the Bronze Age should recognize. He has a huge list of color credits, and his work always solidified the art. Veteran letter Diana Albers, and editor Jim Shooter round out the team! And let us not pass over this awesome cover by Mister Al Milgrom!

 

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Giant-Size Super-Heroes 1, 1974 “Man-Wolf at Midnight!”

Right smack in the middle of the horror explosion of the 1970’s, Marvel began to more regularly put its macabre characters into the mainstream superhero books as well.  Of course, there are good points and bad points about saturating books with certain characters, but I’ve always come down on the side of enjoying it. Honestly, how can you not like a book that pits Spidey against Man-Wolf and Morbius? You don’t get much of the classic conflict with Morbius in this issue (his original problem of not wanting to be a monster, you know a tortured soul type). We do however get that with John Jameson, as he’s been recovering from his bout with Spidey and his inner conflict.

At this point, Gerry Conway (writer) was firing on all cylinders. Whether it was Spidey or any other book, he was consistently churning out good scripts for Marvel and DC comics during the Bronze Age. There aren’t many art teams that can supersede Gil Kane (pencils) and Mike Esposito (inks).  These two creators worked great together, and you can really see their willingness to put forth their very best efforts. John Costanza (letters), Linda Lessmann (colors), and Roy Thomas (editor) round out the creative team (John Romita inking the Gil Kane pencils on the cover)!

 

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Marvel Premiere #28, 1976 “The Legion of Monsters”

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!

 

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Comics: The 1970’s Horror Explosion! Pt. Deux

Alright, so far, we’ve seen the beginnings of what would become Marvel’s foray into the horror genre in the late 1960’s/ early 1970’s, so now it’s time to open the flood gates, and see some more hardcore action from this publisher! One of the earliest (and one of my personal favorites) monsters to roam the 616 Universe, is the muck monster, Man-Thing! This beast was once a scientist that was betrayed by his wife, a subversive agent of A.I.M.! Ted Sallis was working on a formula (the Super-Soldier Formula that gave Steve Rogers his extraordinary powers), but was attacked by his wife and agents of A.I.M. Sallis fought his way out of the lab, and drove his car off into the swamp. He then injected himself with the serum, and crashed into the murky depths of the swamp. Little did he know though, that the specific area where he crashed, was near the Nexus of All Realities, an area ripe with magical properties. These three elements joined to change him into the shambling monster that he is today. The vampiric Morbius followed, and the floodgates were then thrust wide open for many more macabre characters to make their way into the limelight!

Let us now take a look at some of the more memorable moments from some of these Marvel monsters! Credits include- Gray Morrow, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Howard Chaykin, Frank Robbins, Doug Moench, Bill Mantlo, Don Heck, Bernie Wrightson,and more! Enjoy!

 

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