It’s once again time to talk a walk on the Strange side of Marvel Comics! The title Marvel Fanfare was one that not only featured some up and coming creators, but also characters that didn’t get a ton of airplay or were displaced from a title, with no home. The first story (“Switch Witch”, by Mike Barr – plot/script, Sandy Plunkett – pencils/plot, P. Craig Russell – inks, Jim Novak – letters, and Petra Goldberg – colors)does have Spider-Man in it, but the story also features The Scarlet Witch, and the evil sorcerer Xandu! It’s a tale where Xandu uses his sorcery to place Wanda’s soul inside the body of Melinda Morrison, in the Death Dimension. All because Melinda had previously died (but he kept her body “warm”…yes, creepy) and wants to marry her.
The second story in this issue, gives us “The Showdown!” We see a young upstart sorcerer, Ian McNee, challenge The Sorcerer Supreme himself, Dr. Strange! The young man finds out rather quickly that what you think you want isn’t necessarily something you are ready for! Roger Stern (writer), Charles Vess (art), Ron Zalme (letters), and Glynis Wein (colors) are the great creative team behind this excellent chapter in the Doc’s life.
The stories were edited by Allen Milgrom (Mr. Everything at Marvel), and the magnificent front cover is by P. Craig Russell! Not to be outdone, we get an equally awesome back cover by Charles Vess!
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.
Back in the 1990s, there was still a good bit of material being reprinted from decades earlier. Case in point, Marvel Tales ran until 1994 (starting in 1966)! Almost thirty years of reprinted material, and that feat is nothing short of…dare I say spectacular? There were also one-shots, oversized books, etc., including this one from 1993/4. “The Spider and the Bat” recounts the first ever meeting between the 1970s king of monsters, Dracula, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
The cover for the original book is pretty good (John Romita, cover at the very bottom, borrowed from the interwebs), but the reprint isn’t the greatest. I’m not the biggest Joe Mad fan, (so keep that in mind) but I can’t imagine too many people thinking this is one of his (or anyone else) best. The story is by perennial comic book great, the late Len Wein. The man was seemingly one of the nicest men to ever grace the industry ( I met him once at a NYCC and he was cool), and created some very good content in his day, plus was editor on some of the best works in the industry. For the artistic duties, we have the team of Ross Andru (pencils) and Don Heck (inks). A solid team as far as this book goes for sure, and they tell a great visual story together. John Kalisz (colors) John Costanza (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor) round out the creative force behind this cool book! There are also two reprints from the Silver Age in the back as well and both are about vampires!
The character Daredevil is one that has so many extreme ups and downs since his creation in 1964. The last of the big names to come out of Marvel Comics Silver Age, Matt Murdoch has been all over the place. Hell’s Kitchen is his normal stomping grounds, but he spent a bit of time in San Francisco as well.
In this issue, a new villain is produced, and it’s one that’s even had a prominent role in a film! The spawn of Mephisto, Blackheart, is possibly even more vile than his father. Callously killing anyone that he wants, you get the feeling that if DD and Spider-Man can’t stop him, mankind is in big trouble!
The creative team on this one consists of Ann Nocenti (writer), John Romita jr. (pencils), AL Williamson (inks), Joe Rosen (letters), Christie ‘Max’ Scheele (colors), and Ralph Macchio (editor). That’s a pretty solid line-up with Marvel teetering on the edge of the dark times, and they deliver a solid issue. Nothing spectacular, but a good issue with a team up and first appearance. You’ll notice that Romita jr. hasn’t quite yet developed his now signature style quite yet. There are still some pages/panels that remind you of his father’s work, plus the inker makes a difference in the product as well.
The giants are leaving us. There is no two ways about it, and a small part of me gets angry about that fact for a couple of reasons. First, because I didn’t get to meet most of them, and secondly because not enough attention is given to these brilliant creators until they pass away (except in the small community of hardcore comic book fans). A great bit of sadness fell over me when I hard of the passing of Steve Ditko.
Whether you believe it or not, the man created Spider-Man (with a bit of direction from Stan Lee), and all the classic villains that were a huge part of making the hero what he was in the comic books. He also created (co-created, depending on your opinion) my personal favorite character Dr. Strange. Not to mention The Creeper, Hawk and Dove, Speedball, The Question, Mr. A., and so on. To call him a genius is no overstatement, and just a glance at his creativity on paper is all the proof you’ll need. Monsters, Superheroes, Science fiction, horror, humor, etc., he did it all.
Why he left comics doesn’t matter, nor his personal beliefs. He was a kind man, that kept to himself and hurt no one. He gave us his imagination for a long time and we should all be grateful for that! Godspeed, Sturdy Steve!
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!
IS there a video montage out there with Werewolf by Night panels while Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is playing? If not, could someone get on that asap please? Alright, so October is one of my favorite times of year, simply because it reinvigorates my love of horror comics and gives me renewed energy to blog about them. One of the best from the Bronze Age is most definitely Werewolf by Night. Most of that is thanks to Doug Moench and Don Perlin, but there is also Mike Ploog and a few others that did the hairy side of Jack Russell justice over time.
In this fantastic issue, we see Werewolf by Night and Spider-Man in San Francisco, as the two super-powered characters go at it! Jack is under the sway of Moondark (his first appearance), and maybe with Spidey’s help, he can shake it! Hopefully they can accomplish this before the Werewolf tears Spidey into ribbons!
The credits for this issue are a who’s who from the Bronze Age! Scripted by Len Wein, plot by Gerry Conway, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Don Perlin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Charlotte Jetter, and cover by Gil Kane (pencils) and John Romita (inks)!
Right smack in the middle of the horror explosion of the 1970’s, Marvel began to more regularly put its macabre characters into the mainstream superhero books as well. Of course, there are good points and bad points about saturating books with certain characters, but I’ve always come down on the side of enjoying it. Honestly, how can you not like a book that pits Spidey against Man-Wolf and Morbius? You don’t get much of the classic conflict with Morbius in this issue (his original problem of not wanting to be a monster, you know a tortured soul type). We do however get that with John Jameson, as he’s been recovering from his bout with Spidey and his inner conflict.
At this point, Gerry Conway (writer) was firing on all cylinders. Whether it was Spidey or any other book, he was consistently churning out good scripts for Marvel and DC comics during the Bronze Age. There aren’t many art teams that can supersede Gil Kane (pencils) and Mike Esposito (inks). These two creators worked great together, and you can really see their willingness to put forth their very best efforts. John Costanza (letters), Linda Lessmann (colors), and Roy Thomas (editor) round out the creative team (John Romita inking the Gil Kane pencils on the cover)!
Getting two superheroes to fight is usually an interesting trope, but sometimes it does border on the ludicrous. This one lies somewhere in the middle, so fasten your seat-belt. Spidey and the Surfer haven’t had a lot of contact, so the times they do meet are kind of cool. The story really revolves around a boy that’s enthralled by comic books, and heroes such as these two. He gets a little too close to the action though, and winds up nearly being killed! Don’t worry, Spidey and the Surfer have enough time even with fighting to save the youth!
The glorious days of Marvel in the late Silver/early Bronze Age is undeniable. The work that Stan “The Man” Lee (writer) and “Big” John Buscema (pencils) put in on this title is awesome. Dan Adkins did a great job inking this story, and Sam Rosen with the letters as well. The grandeur of the Silver Surfer was never on better display than in this series! Just an FYI: You also get an issue of Warlock (#11), that is also a fantastic read (Kudos to Jim Starlin, Steve Leialoha, and Tom Orzechowski)!
Every good comic book has several elements in it. A solid story is the first thing, and a great art team is a big boost, but you absolutely must have at least one comedic moment within the pages. When Spider-Man is involved, the writer has plenty of opportunities to make this happen. Throw in Power Man and Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Moon Knight, and the story has now the chances of being not only humorous, but also have pathos, and of course, altruism. Now, take all of those heroes, and add the nefarious Purple Man and the Kingpin of crime! Having these characters in the same book is all but a guarantee it will be good (it helps that the book is from a great era of comic books as well).
The name Frank Miller means different things to different people. Some immediately think of Daredevil (count me as one of them), some of The Dark Knight Returns. He’s done so much to transform the industry, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to appreciate fully the impact for years to come. He wrote this hilarious story (which shows he can do more than just gritty), and also penciled the cover, along with Josef Rubinstein on inks! The interior art is by the team of Herb Trimpe (pencils) and Mike Esposito (inks). This was a very good team that is very rarely talked about, and that is a bit of a travesty. We see Diana Albers letters, and George Roussos on colors, as was the case with many books from this era (which gave an immense amount of consistency). Editing was none other than Tom Defalco (check out his work with Ron Frenz on Thor)!