Certain names in the comic book industry invoke thoughts of titles. Any classic comic book reader will tell you this is true. A character like Kull will always make me think of Robert E. Howard. This man had a very short time on Earth, but the impact he left is still being felt today. But I digress…King Kull is a pre-Conan era (or Pre-cataclysmic Age) character that ruled the kingdom of Valusia. He’s sort of like Conan in the fact that he loves battle, but he’s also more intelligent about when there is a need for battle and how to strategize for it as well. He also has a confidant named Brule. Brule is a member of the Pict society, and a fierce warrior that will do anything for his friends. In this issue, Kull is about to be attacked by his own people, who are under the influence of an ages old foe…Thulsa Doom!
Mike Ploog is one of those creators that has done such incredible work during the Bronze Age, that his name will carry on for decades. Of course, Werewolf by Night, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Ghost Rider are the big names, but don’t sleep on his other work for Marvel comics. A short run on this title is all the proof you need to realize there is more out there! Writer/editor Roy Thomas (original story by REH), art by Mike Ploog, colors by Linda Lessman, and letters by Artie Simek!
Conan, a character that’s been in publication since 1932…think about that for a minute. The Great Depression, angst, suicides by businessmen losing their life savings, five years before Tolkien published The Hobbit, and a lifetime before creators gave us galaxies far, far away, Robert E. Howard created an entire world. The contributions this man gave the world are still terribly underappreciated. Anyone that’s not very familiar with his work, definitely give a look at his biography here.
When Roy Thomas secured the rights to publisher Conan from the REH estate, the greatness was there immediately. With Roy Thomas writing, and Barry (Windsor) Smith (and most notably Sal Buscema inking, with others) on art, the character was off and running! What followed the great run by BWS wasn’t half bad either (some say even better), but that’s a tale for another day. You get material from the second and fourth issues of the series in this book and both are legendary stories by Howard!
Is there anything more awesome than the over-sized comic book? Of course not, and Marvel comics lead the way in spectacular fashion in the 1970s in the form of the Treasury Edition! And not only just a Treasury Edition, but a holiday edition! Now, just for the record, only two of the stories inside actually have a Christmas theme, but hey, let’s not get picky!
The first story is probably the best “holiday” centered of the entire book. We see Spidey and the Human Torch take on the Sandman! It’s Christmas time, and the Sandman is looking to wrap up the two heroes…or is he (Roy Thomas, writer – Ross Andru, pencils – Mike Esposito, inks – and Artie Simek, letters)? Next, a classic tale from the Silver Age, as the arrogant Submariner decides to go to the surface world. Once there, he speaks with a lawyer about wanting to sue the entire human race. Too bad for him that lawyer is none other than Matt Murdoch, A.K.A. Daredevil (story by Stan Lee, art by Wally Wood, and letters by Artie Simek). The third tale is the other holiday adjacent one in the book. It’s all about the Black Widow, and her man-servant, Ivan! They’re here to help a young man that tried to commit suicide, and then see if they can get him help (written by Roy Thomas, art by Gene Colan and Bill Everett, letters by Artie Simek). The last two issues are from the Fantastic Four and a crossover with the Avengers! Not much along the lines of holiday cheer, but a cool story nonetheless (of course, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby!)!
On this Veterans Day, I thought it fitting for #WarComicsMonth I’d spotlight Marvel Comic’s greatest military man, Sgt. Fury! Yes, kids, before he was a super spy, and head of S.H.I.E.L.D., he was a bad man serving in the United States military! Now he’s portrayed as more of a thinker that’s reserved and doesn’t soil his hands in physical combat, but back in WWII, he could kick butt like no other (well, except maybe Captain America of course).
In this over-sized issue, we get two stories to sink our teeth into! The first, “Armageddon (from Sgt. Fury 29, 1966),” shows our man Fury, and his seemingly never-ending battle with his arch nemesis Baron Strucker! These two men have been all but equals over the years (with Fury almost always getting the upper hand of course), and the disdain for each other is at full capacity! Written by Roy Thomas, with art by Dick Ayers (pencils), and John Tartaglione (inks). Then, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos must face “The Incident in Italy!” This one must’ve been a fan favorite, as it’s been reprinted at least twice (originally published in Sgt. Fury 30, 1966)! The same creative team brought that one to life as the previous issue (and the cover to this issue as well!). Both tales were edited by Stan Lee and lettered by Sam Rosen!
As October swings into its final week, some of the old school monsters need to get their due. One of those monsters is a nemesis of the Hulk. Of course, the Hulk is a monster of sorts in his own right, but most don’t consider him one because of the human counterpart, Bruce Banner, or maybe because he’s had periods of time where he was split from being both man and monster. Either way, he’s had plenty of opponents from the realm of monster-dom! One of the best (if not the best), is The Glob! This monster is one that gets lost in the mix, but definitely take a closer look at this behemoth of the bog! And yes, this monster does predate Man-Thing, and Swamp Thing, by a few years! Also, keep an eye out for a special appearance by the Leader!
The character was created by the same team as this book. Roy Thomas (writer) freely admits ripping off The Heap with his creation (The Glob). No shame in admitting that, as most would deny it until their last moments. Oh and its been done numerous times, so there’s really no need to get all riled up about it, especially when the creator admits to it. The art on this one is by probably the most iconic Hulk artist of all time, Herb Trimpe! He had an iconic run with this character (maybe only second to Sal Buscema), and is remembered fondly for it. Trimpe also did the cover art, and the letters are by Sam Rosen. (This story originally appeared in Hulk #129)
The character Conan, created by Robert E. Howard, is one that some feel can be a little one note, but Howard and those that followed did a great job in changing the surroundings, supporting cast, and opponents for the Cimmerian brawler. Case in point, these two issues where Conan must fight a vampire and his clan of razor-toothed warriors!
At this point, Conan has lost his love, Bêlit (she died in issue #100), and he has taken up residence with the Bamula Tribe (and become their chieftain), who is at war with the Kungado Tribe. Conan and his mates are viciously attacked by another tribe, called the Drelliks. These men are, in appearance at least, vampires! It’s going to take every ounce of strength and cunning for Conan to defeat these monsters!
One of the best reasons you can find to read these stories is of course, the creative team. Roy Thomas (writer), was the man at Marvel responsible for them acquiring the rights to print these incredible stories. Marvel then made the great decision to have first Barry Windsor-Smith, then ‘Big’ John Buscema create the visuals for these incredible books. His command of anatomy, ability to convey feelings through body language, and settings. His skills as a penciller are right at the top of the all time greats. Inking this legendary man, is Ernie Chan, who was the perfect fit for Buscema’s pencils, and the work shows it. Add George Roussos on colors, and Joe Rosen on letters, and the perfect comic book series is complete! The covers are both penciled by John Buscema, with the first inked by Al Milgrom, and the second by Bob McLeod.
There is probably not a more iconic of a monster than the Monster of Frankenstein! The 1931 classic film (and the first sequel) is undoubtedly in the pantheon of great films because of its significance, and because it was great with excellent performance by Colin Clive and of course, Boris Karloff. Fast forward to the 1970s, and we were presented with an adaptation of sorts for the first few issues by Mike Ploog (the artwork is excellent) and Gary Friedrich (good script by Gary as usual). These two creators were perfect for the book and the time in comics. Both men have left a lasting impression on the industry for sure.
In this issue, you get some really great material, as the Monster fights knights, an angry mob of mutants, and even a giant spider! The story is one right out of a fantasy novel, and it suits the Monster perfectly. There is always that feeling of sorrow for him, but seeing him perform acts of heroism is also refreshing. At this point, he’s not just a mindless beast, but sentient. Definitely pick this series up as it’s one of a kind. John Costanza (letters), Glynis Wein (colors), and Roy Thomas (editor), round out the creative team.
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!
As October marches on, I’m 1/3 of the way through the month already, and the hits just keep on coming! Another issue of Adventure into Fear brings more awesomeness from the 1970s, and a new star for the book in Man-Thing! Yes that muck monster from the Everglades is here and not only will he battle other denizens of the swamp, but also an alcoholic, a gun-slinging knucklehead, and soldier! This is one of Gerber’s best books that really drove home some thought-provoking panels, so if you get the chance, definitely read it!
Written by Steve ‘Baby’ Gerber, pencils by Val Mayerik, inks by Sal Trapani, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by Artie Simek, cover by ‘Jazzy’ John Romita, and edited by Roy Thomas! An excellent creative team for this book (or just about any book), and they really shine with the swampy environment, and the characters in this spectacular issue!
Annuals can be tough as far as finding good material. A lot of the time they’re just reprints, so if you own the content in another form, it’s kind of a waste of money. This mag gives you no new content, but does have a cool cover and a couple of new stories to make it worth the dough. And of course, if you’re a completest, you must buy it anyway!
Of course you get all top-notch creators from Marvel at the time in this one. Seeing some of these creators that aren’t known for their horror work turn out such great material is just more proof that this was an incredible time for comics. Each one brings their own personality to the stories, and even though some might say these quick little stories are an afterthought, they are very good and stand the test of time.
The cover is absolutely fantastic, and artist Ken Bald really brought his best to this one. He’s a guy that had worked since the Golden Age, and some of his covers are absolutely gorgeous (look them up!). The first full story (The Cold of the Uncaring Moon) is by Steve Skeates (writer), George Tuska (pencils) and Klaus Janson (inks). There’s nothing like a good werewolf story to get the mag started! Next, we get World of Warlocks! This one is brought to us by Roy Thomas and Gardner Fox (story/writers), and Gene ‘The Dean’ Colan (artist)! This incredible tale of fantasy is a great one! “Lifeboat” follows, and Spidey-scribe Gerry Conway (writer), and Jesus Blasco (art) shows us what terror really is! The writer of the next story, Don McGregor, is one of my favorites, and doesn’t really get credit for much other than his Black Panther work. The guy wrote some really good horror stories, and “Demon of Slaughter Mansion” with art by Juan Boix is no exception! “Birthright,” has a giant serpent-type creature terrorizing a jungle that inhabits most;y peaceful people. Roy Thomas (writer), Gil Kane (pencils) and The Crusty Bunkers (inks) bring us this tale of fantasy! What does Jack the Ripper and a werewolf have in common? Chris Claremont (writer) and Don Perlin (art) know, and they weave a tale to show us. Finally (almost), we see the notorious muck monster, Man-Thing, and he must face not only vicious alligators, but vampire bats as well! Story by Tony Isabella and art by Vicente Alcalzar. There are also three one-pagers “Thunderbird” “They Might be Monsters” and “Monsters from the Sea” by Tony Isabella and Ernie Chan (Pablo Marcos) on art for the They Might be Monsters story)!