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!
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!
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!
I typically only talk about single issues of comics when I blog (sometimes two issues), but this OGN (original graphic novel) is one that gets very high praise from me, and as well it should. For those that don’t know, Victor Von Doom’s mother was a sorceress, and one day when she wanted revenge, she called out for help from an ancient evil. The evil that answered is named Mephisto. He then had control over her immortal soul, and one day, every year, Doom attempts to wrest control of his mother’s soul from this demonic entity. After quite a few failed attempts, he turned to the sorcerer supreme himself, Dr. Strange, for help. As with everything, though, not all is as it seems with Doom, and his plans for retrieving his mother’s soul from Limbo!
Undoubtedly, one of my favorite writers is Roger Stern. Whether it’s The Avengers work he did, his run on Doctor Strange (1974 series), or his incredible (but way too short) run on Captain America, he always delivered the goods! The artwork is something to marvel at as well. Mike Mignola (pencils) and Mark Badger (inks and colors) prove to be a very good team. Their rendition of Mephisto is spot on in this story. There is some extra material in the trade I have that fleshes out the characters in this story a bit, and those names are nothing short of iconic as well (Gerry Conway, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, P. Craig Russell, and more).
There are many creators that made their mark in the Bronze Age, and some that ascended from an embryonic stage to stardom. Of course, these men and women didn’t realize it back in the day, but decades later, others like myself revel in their works, and hold them in high esteem for it! A title that most certainly gave opportunity for those willing to work on it was Dr. Strange! Think about it. Limitless worlds, characters, scenarios, etc., that was a springboard for the imaginations of its creators that had the wherewithal to use.
One of those above mentioned creators without a doubt, is P. Craig Russell (co-plotter, pencils, inks, colors)! This man’s work is nothing short of extraordinary to say the least. His run on Amazing Adventures is the stuff of legend. His inks over the pencils of Gil Kane (Marvel Fanfare) are noteworthy as well. As with many books of that era, Marv Wolfman (script and co-plot) lent his tremendous skills as a writer, and joined Russell in creating a gem. Letters by John Costanza, and a fantastic cover by none other than Dave Cockrum!
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!
As my look at Marvel Premiere rolls on, this next issue brings more intrigue with Shuma-Gorath, and the sorcerer supreme, Dr. Strange! After defeating three seemingly invincible foes recently, the Doc must now travel to Stonehenge, and then to some far out dimension to battle more horrors! This one has Clea, Wong, and others, as guest stars! The good Doctor must battle for his life, and soon, that of his aged mentor, as well!
Another issue written by Gardner Fox, this one starts out with one of the best lines ever in a comic book (Clea speaking)…”What is it that disturbs you, Stephen?” The artwork on the inside is a n incredible creative team. First, on pencils you have an artistic genius in P. Craig Russell. Next, you get inks by committee, with Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, and Dave Hunt! Those three gentleman are synonymous with the decade, and really do a great job on this issue. Jean Izzo was the letterer, and Mimi Gold, the colorist. One thing of note about the interiors is that the colors really pop in this issue. That was something that was outright awesome, and unseen before this time period. And if that wasn’t enough, you get another incredible cover by Mike Ploog!
Different decades mean different things to all of us, but certain eras are definitely made more spectacular by a select few. A couple of those names for me personally (for the 1970’s) are most certainly Marv Wolfman and P. Craig Russell. Both of these gentleman became big names in the 1970’s, and rightfully so. Wolfman for his work with Marvel Comics horror titles, initially (Tomb of Dracula, and wrote/edited many black & white mags), and Russell with his work also for Marvel, on the title Amazing Adventures featuring Killraven. Of course, both did spot jobs here and there on whatever they could get their hands on, but both have a knack for creating on titles with a supernatural or mystical aspect to them.
In this wild adventure, Dr. Strange must travel to an otherworldly plane to battle for his lover, Clea. The enemy he must face is beautiful as well though, but very dangerous and powerful! Get ready, because this one’s a real head trip! Co-plotted by Russell and Wolfman, scripted by Marv Wolfman, pencils, inks, and colors by P. Craig Russell, letters by John Costanza, and cover by Dave Cockrum! Enjoy!
What better way to get back on track, then with a book based off of the works of H. G. Wells! In the 1970’s, Marvel adapted some stories from “War of the Worlds” in their Amazing Adventures title. They were nothing short of spectacular, and with the creators that were behind this wonderful run, it’s no wonder why they were so awesome. In this epic sci-fi story, we get Killraven, as his ship is attacked by a monstrosity from under the surface. He and his warrior friends must survive that, then free a captive woman who holds some answers they need!
Everything awesome about this issue starts with the cover. Let’s be honest, when you can get Jim Starlin to do a cover for a sci-fi story, you’re already guaranteed some buyers, even if the story and art on the inside are sub-par. But wait, they aren’t! Writer, Don McGregor, brings us this fantastic tale, and not to be outdone, is artist extraordinaire, P. Craig Russell! Jack Able on inks, Petra Goldberg on colors, and John Costanza lettering rounds out the creative team! Throw in Roy Thomas as editor, and you get a book that brings you everything you ever loved about the 1970’s!
Unbeknownst to me until recently, the incomparable Steve Ditko had a nice run on ROM! His rendering of the shiny superhero from Galador is quite awesome, and with other artists the caliber of Bob Layton,Jackson Guice, P. Craig Russell, and Tom Palmer inking his pencils, you were privileged to see a great comic book! In the mid-1980’s, Marvel was in high gear, but also competing with DC, who was churning out epic stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Legends. Marvel had Secret Wars, but also had some little gems like I’m about to show you now! So, without further delay, let’s get right to the visual show!