Spectacular Spider-Man 56, 1981 “The Peril…and the Pumpkin?”

As the 1970s were in full swing, Marvel really started pumping out titles, reprints, magazines, etc. Their biggest seller by this point was undoubtedly Spider-Man! He was the company flagship, and midway through the decade, he had a spinoff title, called Spectacular Spider-Man. It was a solid title most of the time, and worth picking up. It would sometimes introduce young talent that would alter become huge in the industry. Case in point, the cover by Frank Miller (and inks by Bob Wiacek). By 1980, Spidey had multiple titles, reprints, a live action TV show under his belt, you name it.

This story revolves around the second appearance of Jack O’Lantern, and his rampage in NYC (stemming from his first appearance in Machine Man 19…believe it or not!). The interior art and story is literally a murderers row of talent. The story is by Roger Stern, who wrote some excellent Spidey stories in the 1980s (along with Captain America, Dr. Strange, The Avengers etc.). The layouts are by the former EIC himself, Jim Shooter! The finished art is by a comic book mainstay and a very underrated guy, Jim Mooney. Colors by Bob Sharen and George Roussos, letters by Janice Chiang, and edited by another giant of the industry, Denny O’Neil!

 

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Captain America – Top 5 Creative Teams

The character Captain America is not only the greatest superhero to ever don the red, white, and blue, but also the only hero from the Golden Age strictly born out of patriotism that survives today. That alone says something about the strength of the character, and in a small way about patriotism in general. That being said, Captain America has had some very thought-provoking story lines over the years, and a select few men have been responsible! Here are my choices for the five best of all time!

 

 

5. Joe Simon (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

There are two reasons I have these gentleman on this list (and where). First, I don’t believe you can have a list like this without the creators of the character. Not having read very much material from the Golden Age is why this team isn’t higher on the list. The fact that these men created one of the most iconic characters ever, but that they had him punching the ultimate personification of evil (Adolph Hitler) in the face is absolutely fantastic.

 

4. Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)

In his second run with Cap, Kirby really cranked up the visual feasts. He took Cap to new heights that haven’t been reached again and probably never will be. The stories in this era (Silver Age in Tales of Suspense, and then his own title) had more intrigue and spy material than straight up war angles, and that fit perfectly with the Cold War going on at the time.

 

 

3. Roger Stern (writer) and John Byrne (artist)

If you sit back and think how great this run was and that it only encompassed nine issues, that alone tells you how great it truly was to read. Any creative team that can produce a serious story about Cap considering running for the presidency and you believe it, has to be near the top of any list. And just the creepy Baron Blood issues alone are incredibly good!

 

2. Ed Brubaker (writer) and Steve Epting (artist)

To say that Captain America (and a lot of the Marvel Universe) needed updating after the turn of the century is an understatement. The shot in the arm was delivered by this awesome team. And yes, this is a list of Cap creative teams, but this team bringing back Bucky, and turning him into Steve’s worst nightmare was pure genius. No one has come close to this level of writing since.

 

1. Steve Englehart (writer) and Sal Buscema (artist)

From issue #153-181 (with almost no interruptions), Steve and Sal gave the readers everything they could possibly want. The political intrigue, racial bigotry, disturbing truths about a government he trusted, etc. The best part though, was Cap’s friendship with the Falcon. He and Sam Wilson grew to be best of friends, and an awesome crime fighting team! The villains were a big part of this run as well- Dr. Faustus, the 1950s Cap and Bucky (click here for details), Red Skull, Yellow Claw, Serpent Squad, Baron Zemo, Moonstone, and more! All the while having guest stars like the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., Black Panther, Iron Man, you name it. This creative team pulled out all the stops (even Cap quitting!), and that is why they are number one!

 

 

Honorable mentions; first, to the team of Jack Kirby (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)! His return to Marvel in the mid-1970s ushered in some incredible trippy stories starring Cap, and even if the stories don’t grab you, the mind-numbing artwork will! Also, Stan Lee (writer) and Gene Colan (artist). Awesome run with more action than you can ever want, and a signature art style that is absolutely unique!

 

Doctor Strange 29, 1978 “He Who Stalks!”

Another post about Doctor Strange, and this one is another favorite of mine. One of the reasons is because it has several guest appearances. The tale centers around the Doc and Nighthawk (both heroes are members of the non-team “The Defenders“), as they face off against a villain that’s been in the pages of Daredevil during this era as well. The Death-Stalker is a very mysterious villain and a sinister one too that has the power of intangibility, and a “death touch” that renders lesser men dead!

In his long career, Roger Stern (writer) has written some very compelling stories, and had some lengthy runs on titles. Of course, most everyone will gravitate to his Amazing Spider-Man work, or his tremendous collaboration with John Byrne on Captain America, but don’t sleep on his Dr. Strange stories because they are great! Tom Sutton (pencils) is most noted for his horror work, but given the opportunity, he can draw a wider range of material. Veteran artist Ernie Chan (inks) is always a welcome sight in the credits box, because he was a very solid artist that put in good work. Petra Goldberg (colors), Annette Kawecki (letters), and Archie Goodwin (editor), round out the creative team! I shall not forget awesome artist, Frank Brunner (cover), who is one of the best to ever pencil the Doc!

 

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The Incredible Hulk 228, 1978 “BAD MOON ON THE RISE!”

Ever feel alone? Like no one else even cares? The Hulk knows about these things, and a lot more! Bruce Banner/The Hulk is one of the most interesting characters Marvel (Kirby and Lee) ever created. The scientific aspects, the pain Banner feels when he realizes what the Hulk does when he’s out of control, his love for Betty but not being able to be with her, her father wanting him dead, etc. This issue focuses on a character called Moonstone (the first appearance of this villain), and her shady beginnings. Also some Doc Samson for fans of that character.

The cover to this book is one of my all time favorite for this character, and exactly why Herb Trimpe (R.I.P.) is such an under-appreciated artist (inks by Bob McLeod). His work spanned several decades and I think we should all give him more love, yes even if it is posthumous. The story is written by two gentlemen, and both are names that you will easily recognize. Roger Stern and Peter Gillis did a fine job on this one, and showed all the classic tropes that made the Hulk such a wonderful, and sympathetic character. The interior artwork is a great team, and anytime you get Sal Buscema (pencils) and Bob McLeod (inks) together, it’s a good time. The colors are by Phil Rachelson, the letters by Bruce Patterson (Bob Hall, editor).

 

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Dr Strange and Dr Doom: Triumph and Torment – OGN (1989)

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).

 

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Marvel Two-in-One 51, 1979 “Full House–Dragons High!”

As the train rolls on, and Marvel Two-in-One is still at the forefront of my coconut, this issue that was a recent purchase is ready for the spotlight! Anytime you pair two superheros together, it’s a plus, but when you add several, then the odds have just increased substantially of the book catching the eye of a potential reader. Team books offer so much with all the varying personalities, potential strife, and vast array of powers, that you can’t get out of a solo book (although Doctor Strange is the best character and his ’74 series is the best of all time). In this marvelous tale, we see a few heroes gather for a night of poker, and companionship. We see Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, The Beast, Nick Fury, Jarvis, and of course, The Thing (also a minor character named Blake Tower, a District Attorney from the pages of Daredevil). Good action issue, but honestly, it’s all about the personal interactions between the heroes during some “down time.”

Peter Gillis is a name I know from the pages of Doctor Strange. He wrote a few stories in that mag, and did a fine job. In this book, he does an excellent job of weaving the action in with the quiet moments of the book. Also adding some great banter between the heroes as they spring into action! The art team of Frank Miller (pencils) and Bob McLeod (inks), really bring their “A” game on this book! One page in particular shows the heroes in shadow, in a smoke-filled room playing cards that is outstanding. No Bronze Age book would be complete without the letters of Tom Orzechowski and colors of Glynis Wein! And if that wasn’t enough, you get the legendary Roger Stern (another great name who has also written some very good Doc Strange stories!) as editor! And, last  but not least, you get a bonus as George Pérez and Joe Sinnott give us this fabulous cover!

 

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Spectacular Spider-Man #85, 1983 “The Hatred of the Hobgoblin!”

I don’t have very many issues of Spidey stories from the 1980’s for some reason. Just a few scant issues, but issues that have a very good story and creative team behind them. In this story, we see the “birth” of the Hobgoblin! Roger Stern was the architect of this character, and he really turned up the drama and mystery during his run on the book. Some consider his run right up there with the all time greats, and after reading some of it, and listening to a podcast about Spidey in the 1980’s, I’d have to agree. The underworld/crime stories, and the presence of the mysterious Hobgoblin (we/Peter didn’t know who he really was for a few years!), really make this a memorable time for the old web-head! This issue also has a softer side, as Harry and Liz announce that they’re expecting their first child (little Normie)!

The story was written by the often overlooked Bill Mantlo (some plot credit to Stern?). If you look at this man’s credits, he was one of the builders that helped keep Marvel going for a decade. Between ROM, The Micronauts, and all the short runs and fill-ins he did, you’ve got to respect his place in the industry’s history. The artwork was by the team of Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney, and both of those men are also a big part of the Bronze Age (and Copper Age) of comics. With the colors by Bob Sharen and letters by Diana Albers, the team is in place. Get ready for action, and love (with The Black Cat) for Peter Parker!

 

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The Spectacular Spider-Man #50, 1981 “Dilemma!”

As most comic book readers know, the Amazing Spider-Man was the flagship title, and almost always had the best stories. Every once in a while though, the sister title, Spectacular Spider-Man would churn out something cool. It had its share of solid creators working on it, and usually dealt with something a little more off-beat. This particular issue shows Spidey, as he’s wrapping up capturing the villain from the previous issue (the Smuggler), but his night gets a little crazier than he thought it would. After finally packing up the costume for one night, Parker decides to call Debra Whitman and ask her to accompany him to meet Aunt May’s new beau, Nathan Lubensky for dinner the following day. We see that Debra has some pretty deep feelings for Peter, but we know his mind is elsewhere. The story has some nice little moments, and is definitely one that you should seek out!

Anyone that lost track of Spidey after the tumultuous Silver Age is really missing out on some great stories. Everyone knows of the excellence of Gerry Conway, but a couple of other scribes did the old web-head justice as well, and one of them is certainly Roger Stern. He wrote this story along with a few others in this title, and later took over the main title as well, and really made strides in the life of Peter Parker and his surrounding cast (Mary Jane especially). The art team is a great one too, and we have “Jubilant” John Romita Jr. (pencils), and Jim “Madman” Mooney to thank for that. The colors were provided by Ben Sean, the letters by Jim Novak. Your eyes do not deceive you, that is a cover by “Lanky” Frank Miller and Joe “The Rube” Rubinstein!

 

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Doctor Strange: From the Marvel Vault #1, 2011 “This Old House”

Contrary to the opinions of some, there a few decent comics books that were published after the 1980’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bronze and Silver Age as a whole, much more than anything that’s come after, but there are some diamonds in  the rough, you just have to find them! Case in point, this 2011 offering from Marvel that features a story that Roger Stern wrote many years before, but it was never published. In this story, we see just how the old Doc took up residence on Bleeker street in NYC! At one time the house was considered haunted, and that’s why no one would live there. It just so happens that the Doc has just returned from doing some traveling, and learned a few tricks of his own!

The story from Roger Stern (plot aid from Joe Edkin) is a great one, and really seems like one that you would’ve read back in the Bronze Age. Artists Neil Vokes (pencils) and Jay Geldhof (inks), give us a spectacular job rendering the Doc, and all the demons inside the house! Not to be outdone is colorist, Lee Loughridge, who adds some eerie tones when needed, but also some bright tones that pop very nicely in the more brightly lit panels. A few really good black & white flashback scenes are the icing on the cake! Throw in an awesome cover by Mario Alberti, and you’ve got a gem that must be sought out by any fan of the Sorcerer Supreme! Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

 

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Doctor Strange #68, 1984 “Sword and Sorcery”

As the month draws closer to the end, so does my spotlight on Doctor Strange. One issue that I must talk about is this one, issue number sixty-eight. It features not only the Doc, but another one of my favorite characters, the Black Knight! Also, the lady named Victoria Bentley, and her relationship with both men. Dane Whitman (the current Black Knight and the one from this story), was just recently released from his curse that had entrapped him in stone, but he seems to now have some type of madness that is deadly for those around him! A duel between the Knight and the Sorcerer Supreme is upon us!

This story was during the fantastic run of Roger Stern. He also wrote the great story that featured the second war between Dr. Strange and Dracula! The artist, Paul Smith, had a brief run on the title, and did  a solid job as well. Having a great inker like Terry Austin didn’t hurt either though, and we know all about his exploits with people like John Byrne, for example. Written by Roger Stern, pencils (and cover) by Paul Smith, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Bob Sharen, letters by Jim Novak, and edited by Carl Potts! Enjoy!

 

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