For anyone that’s never read a ROM comic before, you’re in for a treat. Imagine if you will (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), a cyborg, leaving his home planet to pursue an ancient, malevolent race, that is bent on conquest at any cost. These “Dire Wraiths” are a vicious lot, and not only kill without provocation, they can assume the form of anyone. In this specific issue, we learn that they mimicked the Fantastic Four previously, and also we’ve seen in the past that they’ve replicated many humans, including politicians, and police!
ROM has recently learned that (allegedly) the Wraiths have destroyed much of Galador (ROM’s home planet), and ROM feels he must return to see if this is true and to help rebuild. Along the way, he meets up with two Good Samaritans (Power Man and Iron Fist) that agree to help him get to the Baxter Building to seek the help of the FF in getting him back to his home. There’s only one problem…the media has created an absolute frenzy by reporting that an alien is running amok in the city, so, the National Guard was brought in to contain the matter. And when I say the media, I mean J. Jonah Jameson! It’s up to Luke and Danny to get ROM to the Baxter building, and the only thing standing in their way is a concrete jungle full of police, military, and other assorted crackpots! There’s also a brief cameo by the new superhero on the block, The Torpedo!
Written by “Boisterous”Bill Mantlo, art by “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils) and “Joltin” Joe Sinnott (inks), with colors by Ben Sean, and letters by Rosen and Zalme! The cover is by “Amiable” Al Milgrom!
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!
Some titles never seem to get their due in the mainstream for one reason or another. ROM (Spaceknight) is one of those titles for sure. ROM is a man from another planet that volunteered to become a cyborg (along with others) to fend off an alien attack by the Dire Wraiths. The battle spilled over into other parts of the galaxy, including Earth.
In this issue, ROM is buzzing around the skies, and a young, blind woman can see him in her mind (clairvoyant?) She wonders if he might be able to help her find her parents that supposedly abandoned her years ago. We also see ROM’s old friends, Steve Jackson and Brandy Clark. They notice ROM whipping around the city, and speak of his awesomeness. ROM then gets some readings from his Analyzer, then swoops in to Cliff House, where the blind woman resides. He informs her that she’s among killers, and then the creepiness jumps into overdrive.
As most comic book fans know, this series was written entirely by Bill Mantlo. He basically took a toy (yes, ROM was a toy with no background, whatsoever), and created a universe for this character. Not even speaking about co-creating Rocket Raccoon (along with Keith Giffen), and Cloak and Dagger (along with Ed Hannigan), the man is a legend for this (and The Micronauts). The artwork is by long time Marvel artists, Sal Buscema (pencils), and Joe Sinnott (inks). Both men have long, stories careers that are the definition of professional. Ben Sean is the colorist, Rick Parker on letters, and Ann Nocenti editor! And lets us not forget the eerie cover by Al Milgrom!
Two enemies, that have seemingly forever been locked in combat. One, a science geek barely out of high school, that was endowed with spider-like powers due to the bite of a radioactive spider. The other is a scientist that was a victim of his own experiments, and through them turned into a vampire like creature that feeds on human blood. Spider-Man and Morbius. Both men with their own problems, and no solutions other than to do what they must. In these two issues, you get to see a fierce battle between these two, but also some interesting moments with MJ and Aunt May.
I’m not a big fan of the surprise “villain” or the deus ex machina in this one. That being said, I am a big fan of Archie Goodwin (writer/editor), and all the work he’s done over the decades. Whether it was his work for Warren Publishing, DC, or Marvel, he was always a reliable scripter. Next we have penciler Sal Buscema. Most people probably think of his run on Spectacular Spider-Man (with J.M. DeMatteis, and rightly so), but definitely seek out his work on The Defenders. His style fit that strange book perfectly. Inkers Jim Mooney (7), and Mike Esposito (8), are both a good fit for Sal’s pencils as neither takes away from them but adds their own touch. Letters on both issues were by John Costanza, and colors by Don Warfield (7) and Marie Severin (8), all add their usual talents to the books. The covers are both very good, as number seven has Dave Cockrum and Al Milgrom show the absolute ferocity of Morbius. The next issue has a young artist you should recognize in Paul Gulacy. He’s mostly heralded for his Master of Kung Fu work.
It took me quite a while to obtain this annual, and with the soaring prices of certain back issues, it was no small feat. Especially with the Guardians of the Galaxy craze following the release of the films. Most of this issue has nothing to do with the films of the MCU, but there is one scene that was an obvious steal from the book (I’ll include the page below).
This era for Thor doesn’t get mentioned very often (especially if you exclude me) and it’s a tragedy. The creators that worked on this title in the Bronze Age were great. Sometimes the stories were a little one-note, but sometimes they were epic in scope and took your imagination to new places. It’s widely known that the John Byrne zealots will attack if you don’t revere his FF run, but the Bronze Age is very comparable if you read it thoroughly. Tons of the Asgardian mythos, stand-alone stories, adventures with the Avengers, space travel, etc., you get it all.
This annual is very interesting as it shows Thor getting transported to the future (via an explosion at some nuclear facility…). He ends up drifting through space, and becomes like a frozen rock. He’s then picked up by a band of misfits that call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy! Small talk ensues, then, they must face Korvac and his Minions of Menace!
The creative team on this one reads like an all-star team from comic books! Co-plotter/Editor Len Wein, co-plotter/scripter Roger Stern, Sal Buscema and Klaus Janson art, Glynis Wein colors, and Joe Rosen letters.
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!
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).
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).
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!
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!