Our Fighting Forces 126, 1970 “Losers in a Lost Town!”

For November, its been brought to my attention (via Twitter), that there is a hashtag (#warcomicsmonth) spotlighting military comics such as Our Fighting Forces and the entire genre! This is a genre that I didn’t really get into until the last decade, but it’s one that is chocked full of brilliant work by some of the best creators in comic book history!

In the Marvel vs. DC debate, there is a lot of room for speculation and conversation on which company is best as far as content over the years. If you look at each genre, rather than overall, you can see a pretty wide gap in a the war/military comics corner. DC comics had several great titles, and certainly the better between the two comic book giants.

This book contains three stories (plus some extras), and the first stars that lovable group, The Losers! Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, Gunner, and Sarge, are always finding themselves in situations with seemingly no way out, but always manage to find a way to survive and get to the next mission alive! Written by Robert Kanigher, with art by Ross Andru (pencils) and Mike Esposito (inks). The second story gives us perennial war comics giant Sam Glanzman (script, pencils, inks)! If you’ve never seen one of his stories before, definitely grab some of his material. A one page story/pinup by Ken Barr (script by Raymond Marais) about Atilla the Hun, is a cool piece for sure. Another one page story, this one by John Costanza, brings some humor to the book for a slight change of pace. And lastly, Great Battles of History brings us The Fall of Constantinople! Art by Ric Estrada! All of this is hidden beneath a wonderful cover by the master himself, Joe Kubert! You’ll be seeing a lot of his covers in these war books, as he was a machine at pumping out very high quality work for DC comics for decades.

 

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Spider-Man vs Dracula (Giant-Size Spider-Man 1, 1974)!

Back in the 1990s, there was still a good bit of material being reprinted from decades earlier. Case in point, Marvel Tales ran until 1994 (starting in 1966)! Almost thirty years of reprinted material, and that feat is nothing short of…dare I say spectacular? There were also one-shots, oversized books, etc., including this one from 1993/4. “The Spider and the Bat” recounts the first ever meeting between the 1970s king of monsters, Dracula, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

The cover for the original book is pretty good (John Romita, cover at the very bottom, borrowed from the interwebs), but the reprint isn’t the greatest. I’m not the biggest Joe Mad fan, (so keep that in mind) but I can’t imagine too many people thinking this is one of his (or anyone else) best. The story is by perennial comic book great, the late Len Wein. The man was seemingly one of the nicest men to ever grace the industry ( I met him once at a NYCC and he was cool), and created some very good content in his day, plus was editor on some of the best works in the industry. For the artistic duties, we have the team of Ross Andru (pencils) and Don Heck (inks). A solid team as far as this book goes for sure, and they tell a great visual story together.  John Kalisz (colors) John Costanza (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor) round out the creative force behind this cool book! There are also two reprints from the Silver Age in the back as well and both are about vampires!

 

Creatures on the Loose 18, 1972 “The Fury of Phra!”

The titles of horror comics Marvel produced in the late Silver and early Bronze Age (and everyone else mainstream) were pretty tame, thanks (no thanks really) to the Comics Code Authority. Some good material for sure, just nothing cutting edge until the CCA was toned down. One of those titles was Tower of Shadows, but that was later changed to Creatures on the Loose. At first it served as just another vehicle to reprint older stories, but in issue sixteen, we saw a character called Gullivar Jones Warrior of Mars take over. The run of stories for this character didn’t last long, but they were pretty cool. Basically a clone of John Carter, Jones fought on other worlds against fantastical beasts and despots, often with no real agenda. Alas, the stories aren’t Earth-shattering, but the visuals definitely make them worth checking out.

Written by George Alec Effinger and Gerry Conway, with at by Ross Andru (pencils) and Sam Grainger (inks), and letters by Jean Izzo. There are also two back up stories in this issue, and both are reprints and quite good. The first one is “Under the Knife” has art by Tony DiPreta, while the second “What Lurks in the Mountain” is a Steve Ditko and Stan Lee production! And the cover to this one is by the artistic machine of Gil Kane (pencils) and Joe Sinnott (inks)!

 

The Brave and the Bold 199, 1983 “The Body-Napping of Jim Corrigan!”

I’ll come right out and say it, I’m not a huge fan of The Spectre. Probably because I haven’t read very many of his appearances. Batman however, is a different story! In this penultimate issue of the series, we see the Spectre separated from Jim Corrigan (the two were sort of bonded together for most of the character’s existence). Two magic users (Kalindra and Stephos) kidnap Jim Corrigan, and The Spectre (isn’t he supposed to have cosmic awareness?) needs to locate his host (Corrigan), so he enlists the help of the greatest living detective, Batman! It isn’t long before the heroic duo find where Corrigan is being kept, and then the two begin to clean house.

The highlight of the issue is the cover, but that’s not a slam against the interiors (Ross Andru and Rick Hoberg). It’s just that Jim Aparo (cover) is so good, he overshadows the other two gentleman. There is a two page splash, where The Spectre is fighting a demon that is fantastic. The script is fine but the story (Mike Barr) is very bare bones. A nice little action issue with solid art, but nothing Earth shattering.

 

Marvel Team-Up 12, 1973 “Wolf at Bay!”

IS there a video montage out there with Werewolf by Night panels while Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is playing? If not, could someone get on that asap please? Alright, so October is one of my favorite times of year, simply because it reinvigorates my love of horror comics and gives me renewed energy to blog about them. One of the best from the Bronze Age is most definitely Werewolf by Night. Most of that is thanks to Doug Moench and Don Perlin, but there is also Mike Ploog and a few others that did the hairy side of Jack Russell justice over time.

In this fantastic issue, we see Werewolf by Night and Spider-Man in San Francisco, as the two super-powered characters go at it! Jack is under the sway of Moondark (his first appearance), and maybe with Spidey’s help, he can shake it! Hopefully they can accomplish this before the Werewolf tears Spidey into ribbons!

The credits for this issue are a who’s who from the Bronze Age! Scripted by Len Wein, plot by Gerry Conway, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Don Perlin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Charlotte Jetter, and cover by Gil Kane (pencils) and John Romita (inks)!

 

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Defenders: The Coming of The Defenders 1, 2011 “The Return”

After a short break from posting (due to that absurdity called “work”), I’m back with a look at one of my favorite books of all time! Yes, and even though it’s a reprint, it still holds a huge place in my reading trophy case because it shows the formation of my second favorite team, The Defenders! To help pump up readers for the new series that came out that year (2012), Marvel reissued some of the classics that showed what an awesome team The Defenders were! The story shows how Dr. Strange faced an almost impossible situation, and called upon Namor and The Hulk to help him combat it (he actually peered in on the Silver Surfer, but he was knocked unconscious).

From the mind of Roy Thomas (writer), we get the beginnings of a most unusual, but also incredible teams in Marvel comics. Once the tam got their own title, and Steve Gerber began writing, it really went to another level. For now though, Thomas delivered the goods, as he just about always did in his career. The penciling chores were handled by two masters, in Ross Andru and Don Heck (Heck did the backup story in issue 1 of Marvel Feature, showing us the return of Dr. Strange, Andru penciled the rest). As if those two giants weren’t enough, you get inks by Bill Everett, Frank Giacoia, and Sal Buscema! Letters by Sam Rosen and Artie Simek, and edited of course, by Stan Lee (cover by Neal Adams).

 

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Savage Tales #10, 1975

In the early 1970’s, Marvel dove head-first into the black and white magazine market. Of course, that medium was already publishing fantastic stories thanks to the creators at Warren Publishing. Some of those creators would leave and join Marvel Comics, and help them ascend and to produce some of the best mags of the decade. One of the best being Savage Tales! Issue one was released in 1971, but it didn’t exactly fly off the stands. The next issue wasn’t released for two years, but when it hit, the market was in  a different place, and it sold well. The floodgates were opened, and Marvel reaped the benefits.

Savage Tales was a good mix of action, adventure, sword and sorcery, and even horror. This specific issue gives us a Ka-Zar story (“Requiem for a Haunted Man”), and the creative team on that one is utterly fantastic. Gerry Conway (writer) and Russ Heath (pencils) are joined by the studio known as the Crusty Bunkers (inks), to give us the lord of the Savage Land, Zabu, and an unfamiliar face, as they fight savages, crocodiles, and more! A prose story (The Running of Ladyhound) by none other than sci-fi scribe, John Jakes (with a couple of images) and then a tale starring Shanna the She-Devil! This tale was scripted by Carla Conway (first wife of Gerry Conway), and the art team is Ross Andru and Vince Colleta! Not too bad, eh? Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, we get a cover by Boris Vallejo, as well!

 

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Marvel’s Unsung Heroes! -Ross Andru!

Even though I don’t own a ton of this man’s work, his pencils have always left me looking for more! The late, great, Ross Andru, left an impression on the world of comics, whether you know his pencils from Spider-Man, or his work on DC’s war titles (GI Combat, Our Army at War, etc.), you have to admire his work ethic, and overall positive attitude he brought with him to the drawing table. Often teamed up with long time friend, Mike Esposito, Andru did some really good things for the industry, and deserves to be shown some love right now! So, here’s to you Ross Andru, thanks for the great memories!

 

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Marvel Team-Up #1, 1972. “Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas”

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Well, here we are on Christmas Eve! I must post a story that coincides with the impending holiday, right? So, here you go! A milestone issue from 1972, that showcases Spider-Man and his buddy, the Human Torch, as they battle the sinister Sandman! Written by Roy “the boy” Thomas, pencils by the late Ross Andru, inks by Mike Esposito, and letters by Artie Simek! As is that wasn’t enough of a crew, you also get a phenomenal cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia! Enjoy!