1 vs 1 Which comic is Best?

I was thinking about boxing matches the other day, and how two big-time fighters entering a boxing ring to duke it out used to be a bigger deal than what it is today. In the vein of that time-honored tradition, let us take a look at two “number ones” and see how they stack up against each another! The first round will feature two books from DC comics, and they are good ones! Batman and the Outsiders #1 (1983) vs All-Star Squadron #1 (1981), are the two participants so get ready for a throw down of epic proportions!

Batman, Metamorpho, Black Lightning, Katana, Halo, Geo-Force, and Looker. This team, mostly composed of new characters was a good mix, and that favored the book’s appeal. Not only that, but it didn’t hurt that Mike Barr (writer) and Jim Aparo (art) were the creators. A jam-packed first issue featuring the sinister Baron Bedlam!

 

Secondly, we have All-Star Squadron! A period piece starring some of the Golden and Silver Age heroes that were a part of the JSA (Justice Society of America). Hawkman, Atom, and Dr. Mid-Nite are joined by Plastic Man, Robotman, Liberty Belle, and Johnny Quick, as they meet the POTUS, FDR, as he helps them create a new super team, to fight against the Axis powers in WWII! But, before that they need to find some missing members of the JSA as well! The creative team is one of legend, as Roy Thomas (writer), Rich Buckler (pencils), and Jerry Ordway (inks) brought a fantastic new comic book to the shelves!

 

Time to break these two books down: first the covers…

Cover – All-Star Squadron (+1)

While the B&TO has tighter pencils and inks, I think All-Star Squadron is better overall. The different array of characters in the pictures is pretty cool. I do love two of the faces on the other cover though, as Superman and Metamorpho are the best reactions to Batman’s dialogue. Speaking of that dialogue, it seems a bit forced and doesn’t match the interior page, so that is definitely taking points away. Buckler and Ordway are on point with this cover for sure. Definitely in the “iconic” category.

 

Interior art – Batman and the Outsiders (+1)

This is a close one, but Aparo definitely pulls slightly ahead of Buckler and Ordway if for nothing else than his rendering of Batman. That aside, both books have some very strong work, but again, Aparo is just a bit cleaner with his style. Colors and letters are both on the same level.

 

Story – All-Star Squadron (+1)

This one isn’t even close. A good WWII story with a myriad of characters that come together to fight Nazis, plus save other heroes from Solomon Grundy, Professor Zodiak, Sky Pirate, Degaton, and Wotan! Don’t get me wrong, Barr tells a good story in the other title, but it’s just not on par with this one by Roy “the boy” Thomas. Oh, and FDR (image below) is in this comic, so that seals it!

 

So, by a score of 2-1, All-Star Squadron #1 is the winner!

 

DC comics: The Unexpected!

As we creep closer to Halloween, I’d like to take time to spotlight some of the DC comics titles I’ve recently bought. One of my favorites is The Unexpected! An anthology book that never lacked cool stories, good artwork, and variety! Under the watchful eyes of editor Murry Boltinoff, the title gave us stories about madmen, murderers, ghosts, goblins, and grave robbers. An eclectic band of material, The Unexpected was one-third of DC comics’ line of anthology horror titles, and I’ll certainly be showcasing the others as well.

My earliest issue is #115, and the glorious Neal Adams cover shows you exactly what kind of quality you got with this series. Quite a few of the covers were done by perennial DC artist Nick Cardy (one of my all time DC faves), and a couple by the Argentinian artist Luis Dominguez! The interiors had no shortage of superstars, as names like Curt Swan, Werner Roth, George Tuska, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Jerry Grandenetti, Rico Rival, Don Perlin, Rich Buckler, and more! Do yourself (and your local comic shop) a favor, and grab something unexpected this Halloween!

 

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Vault of Evil 8, 1973 “The Vampire is My Brother!”

Another horrific comic book post to satiate your bloodthirsty minds! What lurks in the Vault of Evil! A bunch of Golden Age reprints, that’s what! I love these old stories because you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes they are straight up horror, other times a thriller. Once and a while you get one that is pre-code and has a decapitation or something cool like that in it! These reprints usually consisted of three or four stories that usually revolved around murder, vampires, werewolves, or an atomic mutation. The first one in this book was a vampire story, the second was about the dead rising from the grave. The third story is about a female ghost, and the last is about a trunk that brings bad luck to its owners!

Al Eadeh, was a guy that worked in the comic book industry for a long time. His pencils and inks definitely give off that Golden Age vibe, and the man spent time in the Simon and Kirby studio, so, that should tell you about his prowess! Another name from that era is Ed Winiarski (pencils/inks). Another artist that had a grounding in crime, sci-fi, and horror books of that age, Winiarski had a similar style that definitely reminds me of the early horror work by Kirby and Simon. Sid Greene (pencils/inks) fits the same mold but also did some romance work as well. Last, but certainly not least, is Joe Sinnott (pencils/inks). He’ll go down in history as one of the greatest inkers of all time, and rightly so, as his work with Kirby, Perez, and a host of others was outstanding. If you dig a bit deeper though, you’ll find that the guy is quite an accomplished penciler as well, and issues like this prove it. We also get the treat of a great cover by Rich Buckler and Vicente Alcazar!

 

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Doc Savage 8, 1973 “Werewolf’s Lair!”

Just for the record, I know virtually nothing about Doc Savage. That said, anytime you throw a classic monster in a comic book, I’m in! This wacky story reminds me of an episode of Johnny Quest (Werewolf of the Timberland) for several reasons. I wont get into them because it would spoil the issue, but you do get some good action, and some werewolf face-time as well. It’s part two of a story, so the circumstances leading up to this is lost on me, but that aside, it’s still very enjoyable. As the last issue in the series, you get the distinct impression it was cancelled abruptly because there’s no reference to cancellation at all.

As a whole, I like the work of Tony “The Tiger” Isabella (writer). He did some really cool horror stuff back in the early Bronze Age that’s worth looking up. The art team, led by “Riotous” Rich Buckler (cover pencils and interior layouts), are very solid. You get finishes and inks by “Terrific” Tom Palmer (Tomb of Dracula, The Avengers) and Jack Abel (GI Combat, Our Army at War) . Both men have had extensive careers in the industry, and proven themselves to be top-notch at their craft. Once again, the duo of “Titanic” Tom Orzechowski (letters) and “Genuine” George Roussos (colors), complete this list of comic book legends!

 

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Fear #12, 1972 “No Choice of Colors!”

I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for classic Manny! No matter what the content, there’s just something about the character that draws me in, and really keeps me hooked through the entire issue. Not many other books/characters do that for me over and over. The fact that a character that can’t speak “speaks” to me abundantly, is quite telling about the brevity that the writers of this book had during the Bronze Age. Add in an element such as racism, and you get something very ambitious, and a very succinct reflection of the times.

As stated earlier, this character was written by people who had their finger on the pulse of the everyday joe. No one did this better than Steve Gerber (writer). No one wrote socially significant stories with a weird or macabre tone better than Steve Gerber. It’s not opinion, it’s fact. He had an innate ability to write these kinds of stories for many years without recycling them. The man was a genius. And as if that wasn’t enough to sell this book, you get art by the team of Jim Starlin (pencils- interiors and cover) and Rich Buckler (inks)! Both men have had long careers, and are still active today. Letters by John Costanza, and edited by Roy Thomas! Great cover by Starlin and the late, great Herb Trimpe, as well. Also, there’s a cool little reprint in the back that features art by none other than Russ Heath!

 

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Fantastic Four #140, 1973 “Annihilus Revealed!”

Although Jack Kirby created Annihilus (FF Annual #6, 1968), there have a been a couple of other creative teams that did some really great work with the character. Case in point- Fantastic Four #140! In this issue, we see more schemes from the bug-like alien from the Negative Zone, plus his awesome origin. I’m not 100% sure if it had been shown in detail like this before, as I don’t have a copy of FF Annual #6, but if not, definitely grab a copy of this book for that cool story!

In the years shortly after Kirby left Marvel, you had a solid contingency of creators that were more than willing to step up to the plate, and give it a go. One of them, writer Gerry Conway, did just that, and more, when he took over books like Spider-Man, Thor, and this title as well (he didn’t write everything after Kirby left, but definitely had the longest run until Byrne came along later). I know most don’t think of Conway when they think FF writers, but believe me, they should. And lets face it, when you have an art team like “Big” John Buscema and “Joltin” Joe Sinnott in your corner, you’re on the path to success. Add on George Roussos (colorist), and John Costanza (letters), and the team is set! The book grabs your attention right away with a cover from “Riotous” Rich Buckler and “Fearless” Frank Giacoia!

 

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Thor #254, 1976 “The Answer at Last!” and #257, 1977 “Death, Thou Shalt Die!”

I decided to do a double-shot of Thor, and it’s no coincidence that both of these issues have work by none other than the king of comics, Jack Kirby! I love this era of Thor, and Len Wein and John Buscema (and Tony DeZuniga) have a lot to do with that fact. After posting some pic from the series “The Eternals” by Kirby, I felt compelled to spotlight some of his other work from the mid-1970’s (during his final stint at Marvel). Issue #254 is a straight reprint of Thor #159, (1968), and shows just how and why Thor became intertwined with Dr. Don Blake. The second issue (#257), is the last part of a story that showed Thor and the Warriors Three in conflict with the Atlas Age monster, Sporr! And not just for kicks, the very life of Lady Sif may be at stake! Great morality play in this issue, plus the action you get from this era!

The first issue of this double-shot gives us a great cover by “Riotus” Rich Buckler (pencils) and “Joltin” Joe Sinnott (inks)! The interiors of course, are by Jack “King” Kirby (pencils) and “Valiant” Vince Colletta (inks), with letters by “Swinging” Sammy Rosen and script by Stan “The Man” Lee. The second issue brings us an incredible cover by Kirby and Sinnott. This team has given us such wondrous work over the years, and this cover is one of them! The interiors are also very good, and we have “Big” John Buscema (pencils) and Tony DeZuniga (inks), to thank for that. Add in perennial colorist, Glynis Wein, to round out the art team. The writer of this awesome story, is none other than Len Wein! He’s had some great runs in comics, but for me, this one is the best!

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Daredevil #132, 1976 “No Matter What Happens—BULLSEYE Rules Supreme!”

This issue is one of the oldest issues of Daredevil that I own. It’s also the second appearance of Bullseye! The first appearance showed Bullseye giving old horn-head a butt whoopin’! But, in this issue, we see Matt get some revenge, and put this crazy villain in his place! At a circus, no less! Back then, Bullseye wasn’t quite as homicidal as he’s portrayed later on by Frank Miller, and other writers, but he certainly wanted to kill Daredevil! In this issue we see everything, from Bullseye riding an elephant (yes, seriously!), and then him shooting another man out of a canon at DD! Created by Marv Wolfman (writer) and Bob Brown (pencils), Bullseye brought something new to the table, and obviously he’s been a mainstay in the Marvel Universe ever since! Inks by Klaus Janson, colors by Michele Wolfman, and letters by Joe Rosen! Great cover as well, and we have Rich Buckler and Dan Adkins for that one! On Friday the 13th, is there anything more frightening than Bullseye riding an elephant? I think not! Enjoy!   Image (30) Image (33) Image (37) Image (34) Image (35) Image (36)

Jungle Action #7, 1973 “Death Regiments Beneath Wakanda”

The title Jungle Action, started off as a reprint book showcasing stories from the 1950’s of…well, jungle action, from the series of the same title (and others). In issue #5 however, the book became a vehicle for the Black Panther! This Jack Kirby creation was very prominent in the pages of the Fantastic Four, but after Kirby left, it seemed like the character lost his home. The character would find a home here, then transition to the Avengers, and become a regular there for a time.

The writer, ‘Dutiful’ Don McGregor, is one that had the Midas touch when it came to certain characters, and the Black Panther is definitely one of them! Teamed with penciler ‘Riotous’ Rich Buckler, the two would be a solid duo that cranked out many great books over time. Inks by ‘Santa’ Klaus Janson, letters by ‘Titanic’ Tom Orzechowski, colors by Glynis Wein, and edited by ‘Rascally’ Roy Thomas!

 

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Power Man #30, 1975 “Look What They’ve Done to Our Lives, Ma”

You know, whenever I’m feeling kind of down, I can always turn to comic books and/or old school horror/sci-fi movies to brighten up my life. There’s actually one thing that you can add to those two mediums that helps even more, and that is blaxploitation. The movie “Blacula,” and its sequel, are both films that make me laugh, but also movies that scream the 1970’s, with their atmosphere, music, and vernacular. Just a great time for both comics and movies (and T.V.)! Marvel Comic’s answer to that sub-genre, was of course, the Hero for Hire, Luke Cage! This tough, street-wise dude was one bad mamma jamma, and has skin that bullets can’t penetrate!

In this issue, we see Cage fight two of the most off-the-wall villains you’ll ever see, in the Cockroach and Piranha! Both of these crooks posed different problems for Cage, but in the end, he figures out a way to stop both of them. The story was written by one of the best Bronze Age writers, Don McGregor. The art was equally impressive, with Rich Buckler (cover by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson) and Arv Jones on pencils, and Keith Pollard inking. Petra Goldberg was the colorist, and the letters by Denise Wohl. All of these talented people were on top of their game for sure. The book was edited by none other than ‘Marvelous’ Marv Wolfman!

 

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