The Avengers 131, 1974 “A quiet half hour in Saigon!”

It’s no secret that Stainless Steve Englehart is one of the best comic book writers from the Bronze Age (and maybe of all time?). One of his most important legacies is his work on The Avengers. Being only the third person to write that title (Lee and Thomas preceded him), is quite an honor in and of itself, but Englehart took what was there and built a mansion on top of that foundation. He took the team to new heights with his reality spanning story, The Celestial Madonna.

Kang, the main antagonist of the story, was elevated from a more simplified villain, to a complex character that had many layers. In this issue, we see him overpower not only another version of himself (Rama-Tut) but a third version (Immortus) all within mere pages! As if that wasn’t enough, Kang then summons (using the technology of the master of time, Immortus), six characters from the past- Midnight (from Shang-Chi), Wonder Man, Baron Zemo, The Ghost (from Silver Surfer), and Frankenstein’s Monster! He uses them as pawns to attack The Avengers inside a castle!

Top to bottom, Englehart, Sal Buscema and Joe Staton (artists), Tom Orzechowski (letters) and Phil Rachelson (colors), did a magnificent job on this book!

 

 

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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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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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Marvel Two-in-One 24, 1977 “Does Anyone Remember…The Hijacker!?”

While I don’t “remember the Hijacker,” I do know an awesome villain when I see one! Brought to life during the great, but short-lived series “Black Goliath,” This little known villain is so generic he’s awesome! Marvel’s sister titles, Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One, were both exquisite in their own strange way. Both offered characters that even casual fans would recognize, but once in a while, they’d throw a curveball at you, and have a villain (or even sometimes someone/thing from pop culture) that was completely off the wall. This is one of those times of awesomeness.

The name Bill Mantlo (writer, with an assist from Jim Shooter), is one that I hold is high esteem. Many times I’ve picked up a comic book and after reading it, was not shocked to find out it was from the mind of this gentleman. The art team is composed of two masters. Sal Buscema (pencils) and Pablo Marcos (inks), are two staples from the Bronze Age that really resonate with fans of that era and beyond. Irv Watanabe (letters) and George Roussos (colors), are also a couple of names synonymous with that period, as is editor, Archie Goodwin!

 

 

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Spectacular Spider-Man 38, 1979 “Curse of the Living Vampire!”

I love vampires! From the first time I saw Bela Lugosi, and most certainly once I saw Sir Christopher Lee as the fearful Count Dracula, I was hooked. The first vampire I saw in a comic book though, was Morbius! His origin story was foreign to me, but it didn’t matter. He was scary, and more than a match for Spidey. In this issue, Morbius and Spidey clash at a costume party, and we also see the vampire attack a group of kids! His blood lust knows no boundaries, and he will not stop until it is satiated!

The creative team on this book is comprised of some of my favorites! Bill Mantlo (writer), is one of the most underrated writers of all time. He gets a nod for ROM from hardcore fans, but not much else. That needs to change, because when you look at his work as a whole, you can get more of a grasp on his wonderful contributions over the years. Not to be outdone, is the art team of Sal Buscema (pencils) and Chic Stone (inks). Both men are very skilled and were absolute pillars in the comic book industry for a long time. Bob Sharen is another name that everyone who’s a fan of the Bronze Age should recognize. He has a huge list of color credits, and his work always solidified the art. Veteran letter Diana Albers, and editor Jim Shooter round out the team! And let us not pass over this awesome cover by Mister Al Milgrom!

 

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The Incredible Hulk 197, 1976 “…And Man-Thing Makes Three!”

Since October is now upon us, my blog will feature nothing but horror comics. Although it does feature this genre often, I couldn’t wait for this month to come because I love horror comics! Honestly, I love comics period, but even when a horror character makes an appearance in a superhero book I love it! This is the case with this book, as the Incredible Hulk must fight not one but two horror characters that actually prove that not only can the Hulk be beaten, but knocked completely unconscious! And you know when the Collector is involved, things will get cosmic!

I usually don’t start talking about the creative team by mentioning the cover. Not because I’m a heel or anything, but typically, an issue overall offers more from the inside. There’s no way possible for me to not start with “Bashful” Bernie Wrightson (cover art). He didn’t do that much work for Marvel Comics, but, wow, this one is amazing! When you open this book, you’ll quickly learn why I love the writing of “Lively” Len Wein. No matter who the characters, or the setting, scenario, etc., the guy delivers a solid story/script. When you also then get an interior art team like “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils) and Joe Staton (inks), it’s quite a treat. Glynis Wein (colors) and John Costanza (letters) add their talents to this great book, that was edited by “Marvelous” Marv Wolfman!

 

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The Incredible Hulk #300, 1984 “Days of Rage!”

The Hulk has had his ups and downs, as far as sales, and even in the overall quality of the work on the character over the years.  He’s an interesting character with the dual-identity, that gives authors many different angles with which to attack a story. In this anniversary issue, we see nothing but the monster, as Nightmare has forced Bruce Banner away, and nothing remains but the mindless beast! We all know that The Hulk is a bad mutha, and he gets tested by SHIELD, Power Man and Iron Fist, and even The Avengers! Thor manages to battle him to a standstill, but even he can’t put him away. The planet’s last hope is the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange!

The visual feast that this issue is, was brought to us by “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils) and Gerry Talaoc (inker). Add on the colors by Bob Sharen, and you will read this book and think…”wow, they don’t make them like this anymore!” Seeing all these heroes battling an enraged monster is quite a delight. The the writer, Bill Mantlo, certainly needs no intro. His work is nothing short of legendary! Last but not least, we have Jim Novak on letters! (Cover by Brett Blevins!)

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Captain America #154, 1972 “The Falcon Fights Alone!”

After two solid runs (one by Gary Friedrich and the other by Gerry Conway) on this title, the book was in need of another direction. The days of Cap fighting Nazis and Commies was over, and the character was basically spinning his wheels. Sure, you had some good stories in the Avengers, but his solo book was about to be redirected and there would be no going back. The issue before this one started a storyline where Cap had seemingly turned into a flaming racist, and his old partner (believed dead after this retcon story) Bucky was also back and spouting racist remarks towards the Falcon. It was an obvious imposter, but who are these two, and how do they know so much about the history of the star-spangled Avenger?

When “Stainless” Steve Englehart (writer) took over this book, most probably had no clue what was in store, and what a wild ride it was! Add into the mix “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (interior pencils and cover, inks by Frank Giacoia) and “Jumbo” John Verpoorten (inks), as the art team, John Costanza letters, and Roy Thomas editing, and you get one of the best the Bronze Age has to offer!

 

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ROM #37, 1982 “In Days of Olde, When Knights Were Bolde!”

One of the most underrated books of the 1980’s, is certainly ROM! The title was created from a deal between Marvel Comics and Parker Brothers, in 1979. It was just a toy, but was elevated to cult status in the comic book industry. Why? Because of stories like this one. Fuse together ROM and Arthurian Myth, and you have one new, hot commodity, and another that is steeped in centuries worth of mystery and folklore. The tagline of the issue is…”A Tale of Magic and Mysticism in the Mighty Marvel Manner!” This is no understatement, and you also get the great action scenes of ROM wasting some Dire Wraiths, as well!

Not nearly enough credit is ever given to Bill Mantlo (writer). The guy wrote the entire series (all 75 issues), the Micronauts (another toy turned comic book title, and he had many runs on different titles, like Spectacular Spider-Man, Strange Tales (1987), Marvel Team-Up, and more! He is without a doubt the most under-appreciated guy from this era. This title was also fortunate enough to typically have the talents of the great pencils of Sal Buscema, and along with Ian Akin and  Brian Garvey, the art was great! The letters were by Jim Novak, colors by Ben Sean (two more staples from this era), and the editor was Ann Nocenti. Great cover as well, and the duo of Ed Hannigan and Al Milgrom knocked this one out of the park!

 

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The Defenders #27, 1975 “Three Worlds to Conquer!”

My love for the Defenders is legendary, so it stands to reason, that I must love the creators as well. Most of the stories borderline on the absurd and unusual, kind of like a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode. Truthfully, you have to be kind of weird to like this book, but that suites me just fine. The Guardians of the Galaxy (from the future), get tangled up in a battle with the Brotherhood of the Badoon, and it’s up to the Defenders to help them defeat these nasty aliens!

The creative team supreme, of Steve “Baby” Gerber (writer) and “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils), gave us this great book, and by no means do I exaggerate! Throw in the controversial “Valiant” Vince Colletta on inks, Joe Rosen on letters, Al Wenzel colorist, and “Lively” Len Wein, editing! Being that this book is a GotG tie-in, the price can be utterly insane, so, watch out, the thieves of the internet are on the prowl!

 

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