Dracula Lives! 11, 1975 “Pit of Death!” and ” Lilith Unleashed!”

In trying to focus on more mags from the Bronze Age, I thought it was time Dracula made an appearance! The Count has a long history in Marvel Comics, and although the black and white mags are awesome, nothing compares to the Tomb of Dracula series that Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan worked on together. That said, don’t sell these stories short, because they have some fantastic creators on them! Speaking of which, inside the front cover, we see an incredible illustration by Bob Hall (first image after the cover)! It remains one of my all time favorite images of Dracula.

The meat of the book has some excellent work. The biggest part of the book is the adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel Dracula by Roy “The Boy” Thomas and Dick Giordano. It’s only one chapter but the pages are incredible. It was never finished in these format but both men finished it years later and it was reproduced in a trade/HC.

Another magnificent tale (part two) “Agents of Hell” is by Doug Moench and Tony DeZuniga. We see a young man trapped in the catacombs of a castle, and he must fight off the brides of Dracula, but even if he survives, can he defeat the greatest vampire that ever existed? That story is followed by “The Vampire of Mednegna.” This story shows a man named Arnold Paole, as he returns from a trip to Greece, but he has returned a very different man. Again, we get Doug Moench (writer) but the artwork was by Golden Age stalwart, Win Mortimer!

Finally we see a very graphic tale starring none other than Dracula’s daughter, Lilith! Within just a few short panels, she tears a rapist to pieces! This is a very different story though (not just blood and guts), and a must read because the author is none other than Steve “Baby” Gerber! The artwork is credited to three gentlemen that are names synonymous with the Bronze Age- Bob Brown, Frank Chiaramonte, and Pablo Marcos!

And let us not forget the cover that was painted by Steve Fabian!

 

 

 

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Doctor Strange Master of the Mystic Arts!

As we march forward to another season of Marvel movies (Black Panther is here, and The Avengers in May, followed by Ant-Man and Wasp), it’s a good time to put the spotlight on my favorite sorcerer, Dr. Strange! It seems he’ll be quite a big part of The Avengers film (and hopefully others!), and you never know what time period of the comics the creative team will pluck ideas from to insert in the films. One thing is for sure, in the late 1960s, Marvel released volume one of the good Doctor’s stand-alone series (after Strange Tales concluded), and it was fantastic!

Roy Thomas (writer) had already been at Marvel for a couple of years, and proved himself on the X-Men, The Avengers, and so on. His work here is just as powerful as it was on those titles. Artistically, the first few issues were drawn by Dan Adkins. Not a household name for those on the outside looking in at comics, but for those on the inside, he’s known as an excellent artist. He was then followed by Gene “The Dean” Colan (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks)! These two gentlemen would go on to do many great issues together on several different titles (most notably The Tomb of Dracula).

 

Marvel Treasury Edition 17, 1978 “The Incredible Hulk”

A few years ago, I discovered the awesomeness known as Treasury Editions. I knew of their existence, but never bought one due to the hefty price-tag they usually carry. Being a huge Doctor Strange fan though, I grabbed Marvel Treasury Edition 6, as I just couldn’t pass up the book and the $10 sticker! Back to the matter at hand though. Recently issue 17 popped up in front of me and just from seeing the cover and knowing there would be work by Herb Trimpe, Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Sal Buscema, etc., I couldn’t resist buying it.

The cover blurb reads…”A Cataclysmic Collection of Classic Confrontations!” That blurb isn’t one of those familiar bait and switch deals, it’s for real. Inside we get four incredible stories, and each one shows the Jade Giant in some wars that he doesn’t necessarily come out of as the winner. Yep, he’s known as the strongest one there is, but it is cool to see even the strong get humbled and beaten once in a while. One of my favorite horror creatures and Hulk antagonists ever is in the first story, too!

 

 

 

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!

 

X-Men Classics 1, 1983 “The Sentinels Live!”

Back in the Silver Age, the X-Men weren’t a big deal. The book just never seemed to be able to find an audience. The early issues were a bit tough to get through reading, but the Kirby artwork obviously helped. That said, after issue 66, it went into reprints. That’s the part that baffles me, since leading up to that last issue of new material (the title was cancelled and went into reprints for over four years, until 1975), the book was producing the strongest material to date by a long shot!

This fantastic reprint book shows us issues 57-59, with that incredible story with the return of the Sentinels! Of course that means Trask as well, but we also see the dangerous Mesmero too (and Magneto…sort of)! The interpersonal relationships between the team members is on full display in these issues for sure.

Roy Thomas (writer) was certainly a gifted writer and that was clear on any kind of book, but his keen sense on writing team books was certainly felt by the readers of the X-Men. He knew how to weave the personal nature of the X-Men and the real world applications together seamlessly. The team of Neal Adams (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks) put on quite a show in these issues as they did in pretty much everything else they touched as creators during their storied careers. The colors were courtesy of Daina Graziunas. Throw in a great wraparound cover by Mike Zeck (and Palmer on inks again), and throw in some extra art by Adams as well, and you get to see a visual feast!

 

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Marvel Comics: The Liberty Legion and The Crusaders!

Roy “The Boy’ Thomas, is one of my all-time favorite comic book creators. Not only is he one of the best writers, editors, and creators of characters (the two teams I’ll focus on now!), but also one of the best historians of the industry as well (Alter Ego). One of the things I think he did best was create teams that were retcons (retroactive continuity- meaning they didn’t exist in the same time-frame where their stories were written, but during the Golden Age instead).

Whether it was battling the Red Skull, fighting alongside The Thing against more Nazis, or arm in arm with The Invaders in the European Theater, these two teams were always right in the middle of the action! Other than Rascally Roy, these characters were brought to life by the best, including Jack “King” Kirby, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Frank Robbins, Alan Kupperberg, Frank Springer, Vince Colletta, Joe Sinnott, Chic Stone, Don Glut, and more! Images from Marvel Premiere 28, Marvel Two-in-One Annual 2 (1976), The Invaders 41, 15, 35, 36, and 37 (1976-1978)!

 

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Fantastic Four Annual 11, 1976 “And Now, The Invaders!”

Returning to the corner of the Marvel Universe occupied by Marvel’s first family, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on an amazing annual from the Bronze Age. In FF 169, Luke Cage was under the sway of the Puppet Master, and attacked the Fantastic Four. While he was going crazy, he knocked some Vibranium into Reed’s time machine. It was transported back to WWII era, and into the hands of the Nazis. With this awesome weapon, it looked as if the Allies would be defeated, and the world would live in tyranny. The FF then uses the time machine to hurl themselves back in time to help the greatest team of WWII, The Invaders, stop the Nazis and Baron Zemo!

This era of Marvel will always be my favorite, as Jack Kirby (cover pencils, inks by Joe Sinnott) returned to do some great covers like this one. Not to be outdone, is Mr. editor/writer/everything man, Roy Thomas, as he adds his uncanny ability to write team books. And this one has two great teams in it! One of my all time favorite artists, is “Big” John Buscema (pencils). His pencils are always a treat to see, and the inks of Sam Grainger compliment him well. Colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by Sam Rosen!

 

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Worlds Unknown 7 and 8, 1974 “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”

Being a huge fan of Ray Harryhausen, I’m always delighted to see a comic book that was influenced by work of his. Well, there were at least books I know of that were straight up adaptations of his stop-motion work. One is Marvel Spotlight 25, and the other two are Worlds Unknown 7 & 8! Both of these comics showcase a film “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,” condensed, of course. We see Sinbad and his crew battle mythical monsters, evil sorcerers, and the like!

Len Wein (writer) is a guy who’s probably most known for being a part of resurrecting the X-Men franchise, and rightly so, but if you look at the entire body of work, he deserves much more credit. It doesn’t take a writing wizard to adapt a movie into a comic book, Ill give you that, but seeing his name in the credits of any book puts my mind at ease. The art team of George Tuska (interior pencils and cover pencils to issue 7) and Vince Colletta (inks- interiors and covers) is one that some might malign. I understand when people complain about Colletta rushing jobs and putting out substandard work. He has done some good work though, and I think issues like these two prove it. Glynis Wein (colors) and John Costanza (letters) both were always very solid and deserve kudos. On issue number eight, we get a cover by one of the masters of the comic book industry, Gil Kane!

 

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Thor 253, 1976 “Chaos in the Kingdom of the Trolls!”

Some of my favorite comics are those of Thor, volume one. Especially the issues in the mid-200s. I really enjoy the way each story seems self-contained but also connecting to the previous and following issues in a way that wasn’t inconvenient. In this second part of a three-part story, Tor must team-up with his sworn enemy, Ulik the Troll. These two absolutely hate one another, but they must work together to defeat a dragon and then a giant! By story’s end though, Ulik and his minions are laughing at the Prince of Asgard!

I’m a big fan of “Lively” Len Wein (writer/editor). From his work as an editor (Watchmen, New Teen Titans), and vision in reviving the X-Men franchise (along with Dave Cockrum), he really should be recognized a lot more than anyone seems to give him credit. Artist “Big” John Buscema (pencils), is a master that let us too soon. His work on books like Conan, The Avengers, and Silver Surfer are the stuff of legend. Of course, as with most artists, some inkers suited his style better than others, but honestly, his pencils were strong enough that they typically would show right through. One of the inkers that did suite him quite well, was Tony DeZuniga (Jonah Hex, Black Orchid). He’s another one of those guys that rarely gets enough airtime, as an inker or penciler, and that is a travesty. Colors were by the ever-present Marie Severin. She’s someone who should definitely be on your radar simply because not only was she a great artist, but also because she was one of the few women in comics since back in the Silver Age. Letters were by Condoy (?). The cover was by Jack “King” Kirby, and even though there appears to have been some alterations, you can still see the weight that Kirby’s pencils carry.

 

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Conan the Barbarian #41, 1974 “Garden of Death and Life!”

Of course, who doesn’t enjoy a good story where Conan thrashes some scoundrels, and then saves the beautiful woman! I know a lot of people will steer clear of a series like this because they think it’s very one-trick pony, but if you really enjoy the genre, give it a try! This story in particular has a very weird and twisting ending. Sometimes Conan can get a little weary in regards to the plot, but action is never missing nor is a mystical/magical aspect that always kept my interest. Throw in an evil sorcerer or a weird creature, and I’m in for the long run!

When you have a character with the history that Conan has, it’s now extremely difficult to cook up decent stories. That’s not to take anything away from Roy Thomas (writer) mind you, but the groundwork laid by Robert E. Howard (creator) surely deserves the lion-share of the credit. It certainly doesn’t hurt your book when you have an artist the caliber of “Big” John Buscema (pencils, R.I.P.) and Ernie Chan (inker on interiors and cover) to put forth a spectacular visual feast either! Add on Bronze Age stalwarts John Costanza (letters), and Glynis Wein (colors), and the book will ascend to the heights of greatness! Did I forget to mention the cover by the master, Gil Kane?

 

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