Conan the Barbarian 102 and 103, 1979 “The Men Who Drink Blood!”

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.

 

Advertisements

The Frankenstein Monster 6, 1973 “In Search of the Last Frankenstein!”

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.

 

Adventure into Fear 24, 1974 “Return to Terror!”

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!

 

Adventure into Fear 18, 1973 “A Question of Survival!”

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!

 

Monsters Unleashed Annual 1, 1975 “Super Annual 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)!

 

 

 

Dracula Lives! 3, 1973 “Prince of Darkness, City of Light!

Is there a more iconic horror figure than Dracula? Probably not, and after acquiring another issue of this spooky mag, it’s time to dive into it! October is here, and the horror mags from the Bronze Age are a great way to celebrate the season. Vampires, witches, a gargoyle, and Solomon Kane! A great issue for sure that brings a solid spotlight on Dracula not only in the Marvel universe, but also in contemporary fiction and film.

The Dracula story is one that dives into the history of the character in reference to the actual continuity of the Marvel Universe (written by Marv Wolfman, and art by ‘Big’ John Buscema and Syd Shores). A battle with another vampire, Nimrod, to be specific, who was the previous lord of the undead. The second story is a reprint from the 1950s. It involves a vampire and a slasher, à la Jack the Ripper (art by Larry Woromay). This story is followed by a great puff piece about Bela Lugosi with some fantastic photos from his films (written by Doug Moench).

Next we have what is probably the best piece of the book. A story about a chance encounter between Dracula and the sword wielding Puritan, Solomon Kane (written by Roy Thomas, with art by Alan Weiss and the Crusty Bunkers)! Another reprint from the Atlas era follows with an interesting take on the Shakespeare story Macbeth (art by C. A. Winter).  Finally, we get a super story about Dracula in Paris, and this time he must do battle with a stone gargoyle (written by Gerry Conway, and art by Alfonso Font)! There is also a neat story by Chris Claremont that features some love for Hammer studios! All of this is kicked off by a wonderful painted cover by Neal Adams!

 

The Savage Sword of Conan 59, 1980 “City of Skulls!”

The black and white magazines from the 1970s are treasures that should be on every comic book collectors list. The artwork is typically phenomenal, and the stories cool as well. One of the best of these without doubt is The Savage Sword of Conan! Each magazine is filled with stories from the barbarian and his adventures. Whether he faces a wizard, a monster, or an army, Conan will prevail!

The mags almost always have extras in them as well. In this particular issue, you’ll see a frontispiece by the terribly underrated Keith Pollard and a pin-up by Gene Day! Also, sandwiched between two tales of the Cimmerian, you get a story called “The Kozaks Ride” by Fred Blosser and some illustrations by “Marvel’s finest.” The other two stories were adapted by Roy Thomas!

The first tale, “The City of Skulls,” was a story written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. These two sci-fi writers have a ton of credits and were obviously huge fans of Robert E. Howard! The artwork is by Mike Vosburg and Alfredo Alcala. The second story, “Wolves Beyond the Border” was written by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp.The artwork in this story is by Ernie Chan.

Now, you may be wondering how these other names came to write stories starring everyone’s favorite barbarian. Well, the truth is, many stories were written by others after Howard’s death in 1936. They were either new material using the characters created by Howard or sometimes old material that had not been completed yet by Howard himself. Throw in an incredible painted cover by Clyde Caldwell, and you have a masterpiece of fiction brought to you by Marvel Comics!

 

Spider-Man/Dr. Strange: The Way to Dusty Death

By the time the 1990s rolled around, Spider-Man was a household name for quite sometime, and Doctor Strange was also becoming a big part of the mainstream Marvel Universe. Some still consider him a fringe character, but after the 2016 film, that’s mostly changed. A team up with the likes of Spider-Man doesn’t hurt for some added exposure no doubt, but even though his name is in small letters on the cover, the Doc is front and center in this tale!

The story was co-plotted by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas (with Thomas scripting), and the artwork was a team effort with Michael Bair (pencils/inks), and Mark Texeira and Mark Beachum inking, Joe Rosen and Rick Parker lettering, and Bob Sharen colors. Bair has a huge list of credits but isn’t a household name. His work in this book is pretty good though. We all know that Conway and Thomas can plot/write a good story, and this one is no exception. No, it isn’t their finest hour, but it is a good yarn featuring the Doc and Spidey, the beautiful Melinda Morrison, and the psychotic mind of Xandu!

 

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!

 

 

 

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).