The Phantom Stranger 19, 1972 “Return to the Tomb of the Ice Giants!”

Welcome, to week four of the Halloween siege! In this week’s post, I’ll be spotlighting one of my favorite characters from DC comics, The Phantom Stranger! This character has been a favorite of mine ever since I began diving into the supernatural universe of DC comics. I talked about a story starring him on a podcast for Halloween in 2019 (click here to listen in!), and that is probably my favorite story about this enigmatic entity! But now, on to this story!

Our tale begins with the Phantom Stranger giving a monologue to us about the follies of mankind. We then see two men searching for something in the Arctic Circle. They have some machinery working to pump oil out of the ice, but then the pressure decreases rapidly. When they check the line, they’re stunned to see a sword the size of a Cadillac cutting through the line! We see a giant hand reaching out for them, and then they are gone. Back at the main office, two more men talk about how many have gone missing up here and they aim to find out why. A man named Blake then takes a jeep out to the work site, but an earthquake opens up a hole in the ice, and it looks like he’s a goner. A hand reaches out to save him, and it is none other than the Phantom Stranger that comes to his aid. The man in charge still wants to proceed with pipeline, though, but the Phantom Stranger and Blake try to talk him out of it. His greed will not allow him to stop, and it might just be his undoing!

This morality play by Len Wein (writer) and Jim Aparo (art) is not only a good one, but still holds relevancy in 2020. It doesn’t feel like you’re being force-fed their opinion or nonsense either. The story works well in all phases and truly shows the ability of both creators to tell a good story. The dialogue and visuals are both on par with anything of its time.

There’s also a backup story about Dr. 13, by Steve Skeates (writer) and Tony DeZuniga (art). This one involves a man that is being haunted by a ghostly voice that sounds like his dead father!

A bonus feature of Mark Merlin, Sleuth of the Supernatural closes out the issue nicely. This reprint stars the talents of Arnold Drake (story), and the art team of Mort Meskin and George Roussos!

This incredible issue is kicked off by the talents of Neal Adams! The cover is spectacular!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dynamic Classics 1, 1978 “Starring Batman”

The more I read Bronze Age Batman, the more I look forward to the next time I buy and read another story! In this superb reprint issue, we see a Batman story (originally Detective Comics 395, 1970), and a back up featuring Manhunter (Paul Kirk). We also get this super creepy and cool cover by Dick Giordano!

In the first tale, Bruce Wayne has been invited to a party in Mexico, by a normally reclusive, but wealthy couple. He realizes something must be up, so he begins investigating immediately. He foils a murder attempt, and starts to piece things together. Before he can dig any deeper, he’s in fight for his life against armed thugs, then a pack of wolves! He eventually conquers those obstacles and comes face to face with the real masterminds, but as he’s about to put a stop to their plans, he’s rendered helpless by an unforeseen power they possess!

This story was a good one and really resonates with the other stories of Batman in the Bronze Age. It shows him first and foremost as a detective, then a superhero in a cape (or sometimes not at all). Moody, atmospheric, and a slight touch of horror all bring this story together. It’s not simplistic, but it’s certainly not overly complicated either. A good mix of both, to be honest. Writer, Denny O’Neil, art by Neal Adams (pencils) and Dick Giordano (inks), with letters by Ben Oda.

The second story is one I’m not familiar with, as it involves a character I’ve heard of but never read before in Manhunter (originally created by Jack Kirby in the Golden Age). This version of the character has two legendary creators behind him in Archie Goodwin (writer), and Walt Simonson (art)! Just quickly breezing through the story, it’s definitely something I’ll be looking into in the future! Definitely look for this book in the bargain bins, as that’s where I found it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest 26, 1982 “The Brave and the Bold”

Thanks to a podcast (Digestcast on Fire and Water), I discovered this wonderful series of books. I’d never heard of them before, but when I was trolling eBay recently, I saw them at a good price. I snagged this super cool edition of The Brave and the Bold! Other than a slight tear of the cover, the book is on fantastic shape, too! This series was an anthology reprint (most of the time) book that brings some of the best DC had to offer from the Silver Age! Six big stories (part six having three chapters) are encased in this powerful, pint-sized book, and it’s all led off with a great cover by Jim Aparo (framing sequences as well)!

After some framing material, the first tale is from issue 86, 1969. “You can’t Hide from a Deadman!”, brings some incredible action from the Dynamic Duo, as they’re busting up an extortion racket and run into Deadman! Written by Bob “Zany” Haney, and art by Neal Adams!

Next, is “Three Arrows Against Doom!” This fantastic Robin Hood story is from issue 9, 1956/57. In this story, we see how Robin escapes from the sheriff’s men yet again, but this time with only three arrows at his disposal! Written by Bob Haney, with art by Russ Heath!

The third tale is called “Menace of the Mirage People!” It’s from issue number 38 (1961), and involves the Suicide Squad (no, not the lame movie characters from 2016)! Colonel Rick Flag, Jess Bright, Dr. Hugh Evans, and Karin Grace must fight against illusions that seem like reality! Written by Robert Kanigher, and art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. For further reading on this team, click here and here!

The following story, “Threat of the Ice King (issue 18, 1958)” is a tale of the Viking Prince! These ongoing stories were great and not only because they gave you epic fantasy tales, but because they had names like Bob Kanigher (writer) and Joe Kubert (art) behind them!

In the days of Camelot, knights and warriors ruled the day (story from issue 21, 1958/59)! And in “The Sword in the Lake,” we get to see some great action involving the Silent Knight! He’s tricked into the service of Morgan Le Fey, and must retrieve some incredible artifacts for her! Written by Robert Kanigher, with art by Irv Novick!

Lastly, we have some wild adventures of Cave Carson! In three separate chapters, we learn “The Secret Beneath the Earth!” These chapters from issue 31 (1960), show us some crazy adventures involving dinosaurs, lava men, and other shenanigans. Written by Ed Herron, art by Bruno Premiani. For more on Cave Carson, click those links above in the Suicide Squad section!

Do yourself a favor and grab some of these as they are a great way to get some fantastic material from the Silver Age at an affordable price!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Batman 236, 1971 “Wail of the Ghost Bride!”

Happy Halloween! I’ve been spotlighting the wonderful additions to my collection from Warren Publishing (Creepy, Eerie) over the last several weeks, and I hope you enjoyed them. Now though, it’s time for some holiday spookiness from the caped crusader himself, Batman! In this issue, we get three stories, but the one I’m going to be focused on is “Wail of the Ghost Bride!” Written by Frank Robbins, with art by Irv Novick (pencils) and Dick Giordano (inks).

The opening splash page shows Batman attacking a man with his back to the audience, and with a ghostly apparition of a woman egging him on to kill her murderer. We then flashback to a time before, and Bruce Wayne is on a flight back to Gotham City. He’s reading a book on unsolved mysteries (cue Robert Stack), and wonders about the death of a woman named Corrine, the heiress to Hellbane Manor. He falls asleep and begins to dream. He wakes up though, and lurches back in terror, as this same woman he read about, Corrine, is outside the window, calling to him to avenger her death. From here, the story follows Batman, as he attempts to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of the young woman.

The story is a good one, but the overall brilliance is the art by Novick and Giordano. The two make a great paring for a character like Batman, and really showed me that they belong right up there with the other great Batman creative teams. And of course, you can’t go wrong with a fabulous cover by Neal Adams!

I’ll just briefly mention the two back up stories. First is “Rain Fire” written by Mike Friedrich and again Novick and Giordano on art. It’s just ok, and not really my cup of tea (a political/social commentary story). The second one is a reprint from Batman 30, 1945. “While the City Sleep,” is a fun little romp by Bill Finger (writer, and the true creator of Batman with the various ghost artists), with art by Dick Sprang!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Adventures 18, 1973 “War of the Worlds!”

You may be wondering why there are back to back days of posts on my blog this week. Well, in short, it’s an anniversary for me (and a few others), and I wanted to send out an extra awesome blog post in celebration. You see, it was ten years ago (Sept. 11, 2009), that my very first column was published (click here). It wasn’t the best, but it was from the heart, as that story is my all time favorite Thor story, and one of my favorites no matter which character or universe we’re talking about. If anyone would’ve told me I’d still be writing about comics ten years later, I’m not sure I would believe it.

Many thanks go out to ComicAttack for giving me my start on this journey. As with everything in life, there are people to thank, and here is my list (if I forget anyone, apologies!)- Andy Liegl, the guy that started ComicAttack.net! I met him and several other great people on the message boards of ComicCollectorlive.com. Gid Freeman (@InfiniteSpeech), was a heavy contributor to the site from day one, and has been one of my favorite people since I met him. Kristin Bomba was a great editor, and put up with my shenanigans for a long time. Imagine if you will, a guy that waits until the night before or even the morning of a column is due to post to submit said article to the editor for proofreading…yeah, I was that guy. She was always very kind and gracious to me, and I’ll never forget it. Another huge influence and help to me was Decapitated Dan Royer (@DecapitatedDan). He was always there for advice, making banners, and encouraging me whenever I needed it. He was also the first guy to get me on a podcast (IIRC). Kudos to those four people, and all the other peeps at CA!

My next stop on the internet was ComicRelated.com (now defunct). My stay there was short, but Chuck Moore and the gang made me feel welcome. Another nod to Decapitated Dan, as he was already writing for them and friends with Chuck. He introduced us at C2E2 in 2013. Later that year, after talking with a couple of friends, I decided to branch out and start my own blog. In all honesty it was the best decision I ever made, as the blog has given me so much freedom and fun times, meeting new people, and getting even more into social media (especially Twitter). And here we are, in 2019. I must also give a shout out to @Charlton_hero and the crew at Super Blog Team Up, as they were a blast to collaborate with this past August. Now, onto this week’s post!

It took a while, but I finally secured a copy of this incredible book! The story-line involving Killraven begins here, (and really gets rolling when Don McGregor begins writing with issue 21) and is not only one of wonder and excitement, but also one that carries many messages within its pages. A concept by Roy Thomas, this story which takes some elements from the H.G. Wells story, and of course, added some other aspects as well.

We see the attack from the aliens, similar to the one in the film (this attack is in 1901), but the aliens return after there first defeat, and they are better prepared this time. The second invasion brings the defeat of mankind, and youths are taken from their homes to be trained for fighting for entertainment purposes. One of these youths is Killraven. He trains and becomes the most lethal killer of all, but never forgets how his mother and brother were callously murdered by a henchman of the aliens, named Dr. Raker.

The talent that went into this book is astonishing. Roy Thomas (plot), Gerry Conway (script), Neal Adams and Howard Chaykin (art), Petra Goldberg (colors), John Costanza (letters), and John Romita Sr. (cover)! As I stated earlier, this book would grow even bigger and better as it went on (McGregor, P. Craig Russell, Gene Colan, etc) with more contributors with excellent creative abilities. Do yourself a favor and grab the issues or the Marvel Masterworks of this title.

 

The Brave and the Bold 95, 1971 “C.O.D. Corpse on Delivery”

The simple formula of Batman plus another hero and let them solve of mystery/beat down some villains sounds kind of dry, but wait, don’t despair, when you get a creative team like this one, it’s all good. Before we get to that though, this issue did show a female antagonist for Batman, and not Catwoman, so that was refreshing. In this her first appearance, Ruby Ryder is shown as extremely ruthless, and willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants. And don’t be mistaken, as she does hire muscle but she’s also not afraid to get the job done herself!

A story this wild (and believe me, it is) could only be written by “Zany” Bob Haney. I’m quite sure no one else could’ve written this one, as it requires a touch only he could apply. The artist, Nick Cardy, was his usual reliable self in this issue. He understands completely how to relay a story visually, especially Batman. And yes, spoiler alert, the surprise guest is none other than Plastic Man! There is a great quiet moment between the two heroes at the end, and really tops off the story nicely. The awesome cover is by Neal Adams!

 

 

Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane 85, 1968 “When Lois was more Super than Superman!”

All I needed to see was Lois Lane gets super powers, the bottle city of Kandor, and a mutant breed of toy-size ponies! Yes that’s all it takes. It’s the simple, crazy things in life that are amusing, and never lose their humor. Silver Age comics (especially DC), are a wonderland of humorous tales that is never-ending. Superman is probably the best example of this trend. It took quite a long time for DC to turn towards some more serious stories, but the material presented here might not be Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, but it’s a ton of fun.

And, as if the main story wasn’t ludicrous enough, we get a back up story about Lois as a toddler, getting into shenanigans. Yes, chasing a snake, “driving” a car, etc., you get the drift. A book with two insane tales, and lots of laughter. The dialogue in the first story is especially entertaining. The book is Silver Age DC comics personified.

The cover is by Neal Adams, who was very prevalent at DC in the late Silver and Bronze Ages. Moving inside, we get both parts of the Super-Lois story from Leo Dorfman, who also wrote for Dell, Gold Key, and Fawcett. The guy wrote a ton of Superman stories during this era. The artwork is by Irv Novick (pencils) and Mike Esposito (inks). Both men give us a quality job for sure (as you’ll see) in both parts. Lastly, we see the back up story created by two giants in Jerry Siegel (writer) and Kurt Schaffenberger (art)!

 

 

DC Limited Collectors’ Edition C-23, 1973 “The House of Mystery”

As October is finally winding down, one more over-sized book must get the royal treatment! And there is not a better place to walk into than The House of Mystery! Over the years that title has had many themes (pre-code horror, superheroes, then back to horror), but it really didn’t take off until 1968, when editor Joe Orlando took over the reigns (issue 174). Within just a few issues, we saw the first professional work of the most seminal horror artist of the Bronze Age, Bernie Wrightson (issue 179). Some would argue he’s the horror artist of all time, and there’s a good argument for it, but obviously that subjective, and could be talked about for decades (and probably will be).

Looking specifically at this book, we get a Nick Cardy cover, and his contributions to the comic book world cannot be in question. His decades-long  work for DC comics is nothing short of astounding. Inside we get a frontispiece by Jack Sparling, with the familiar host, Cain, telling us we are about to be in for a surprise! The first story, “The House of Gargoyles,” is scripted by Jack Oleck, with art by the aforementioned Sparling. Next, there is an incredible story called “The Secret of the Egyptian Cat.” Written by Robert Kanigher (long time DC scribe that wrote many war stories), and although he does a fine job, the artistic prowess of Bernie Wrightson is what really makes this one memorable.

The third story (“The Widow’s Walk“) is another good one, with Howard Post scripting, and the art team of Neal Adams and Joe Orlando! Very good story top to bottom! We are then treated to a two-page splash of Cain by Wrightson (black and white version), and the image is absolutely stunning. A better, more iconic image really doesn’t exist in comics. Another story (“His Name is… Kane“) with another hall of fame artist follows, as Gil Kane (pencils) and Wally Wood (inks) bless us with an art combination for the ages. The script is by Mike Friedrich, who worked for DC and Marvel during his career. As if all of this wasn’t enough, enter Alex Toth (art) with “The Devil’s Doorway.” Another script by Jack Oleck, and once again, no offense meant, but the artwork really lifts this one up quite high. Toth is a master that did everything his way, and should be lauded for it. Lastly, we get another gem from Neal Adams, Joe Orlando, and Robert Kanigher. “Nightmare” is the perfect way to finish off this extraordinary book! The book is also filled with funny pages by Sergio Aragonés, and even features a cut out, table top diorama on the back cover!

 

 

The House of Mystery 192, 1971 “Dare You Enter?”

Eight simple words, that’s all it takes to get my blood pumping. Do you dare enter The House of Mystery? An anthology title from DC comics that started in 1951, the book went on for an amazing 321 issues! The stories were all over the place of course, as the times changed (and the comics code), so did the material. Honestly though, it wasn’t until the Bronze Age that the book had some of the best creators on it.

The cover to this book is by none other than Neal Adams (pencils and inks). He proved that no matter the genre, he can produce incredible work. The inside brings three different stories (along with some extras). The first is “The Gardener of Eden” by John Albano (writer) and the exquisite work of Jim Aparo! A doctor learns a new lesson the hard way! “Image of Darkness” brings a tale of terror when a husband and wife are having domestic problems. Written by Robert Kanigher, and art by Gray Morrow! Finally, “Nobody Loves a Lizard!” shows a boy with a pet lizard that has an incredible secret. Writer Virgil North, with art by Don Heck!

 

Dracula Lives! 3, 1973 “Prince of Darkness, City of Light!

Is there a more iconic horror figure than Dracula? Probably not, and after acquiring another issue of this spooky mag, it’s time to dive into it! October is here, and the horror mags from the Bronze Age are a great way to celebrate the season. Vampires, witches, a gargoyle, and Solomon Kane! A great issue for sure that brings a solid spotlight on Dracula not only in the Marvel universe, but also in contemporary fiction and film.

The Dracula story is one that dives into the history of the character in reference to the actual continuity of the Marvel Universe (written by Marv Wolfman, and art by ‘Big’ John Buscema and Syd Shores). A battle with another vampire, Nimrod, to be specific, who was the previous lord of the undead. The second story is a reprint from the 1950s. It involves a vampire and a slasher, à la Jack the Ripper (art by Larry Woromay). This story is followed by a great puff piece about Bela Lugosi with some fantastic photos from his films (written by Doug Moench).

Next we have what is probably the best piece of the book. A story about a chance encounter between Dracula and the sword wielding Puritan, Solomon Kane (written by Roy Thomas, with art by Alan Weiss and the Crusty Bunkers)! Another reprint from the Atlas era follows with an interesting take on the Shakespeare story Macbeth (art by C. A. Winter).  Finally, we get a super story about Dracula in Paris, and this time he must do battle with a stone gargoyle (written by Gerry Conway, and art by Alfonso Font)! There is also a neat story by Chris Claremont that features some love for Hammer studios! All of this is kicked off by a wonderful painted cover by Neal Adams!