Fantasy Masterpieces #14, 1980 (originally SS #14, 1970) “The Surfer and The Spider!”

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)!

 

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Marvel Team-Up Annual #4, 1981 “Power Play!”

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)!

 

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Spectacular Spider-Man #85, 1983 “The Hatred of the Hobgoblin!”

I don’t have very many issues of Spidey stories from the 1980’s for some reason. Just a few scant issues, but issues that have a very good story and creative team behind them. In this story, we see the “birth” of the Hobgoblin! Roger Stern was the architect of this character, and he really turned up the drama and mystery during his run on the book. Some consider his run right up there with the all time greats, and after reading some of it, and listening to a podcast about Spidey in the 1980’s, I’d have to agree. The underworld/crime stories, and the presence of the mysterious Hobgoblin (we/Peter didn’t know who he really was for a few years!), really make this a memorable time for the old web-head! This issue also has a softer side, as Harry and Liz announce that they’re expecting their first child (little Normie)!

The story was written by the often overlooked Bill Mantlo (some plot credit to Stern?). If you look at this man’s credits, he was one of the builders that helped keep Marvel going for a decade. Between ROM, The Micronauts, and all the short runs and fill-ins he did, you’ve got to respect his place in the industry’s history. The artwork was by the team of Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney, and both of those men are also a big part of the Bronze Age (and Copper Age) of comics. With the colors by Bob Sharen and letters by Diana Albers, the team is in place. Get ready for action, and love (with The Black Cat) for Peter Parker!

 

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The Spectacular Spider-Man #50, 1981 “Dilemma!”

As most comic book readers know, the Amazing Spider-Man was the flagship title, and almost always had the best stories. Every once in a while though, the sister title, Spectacular Spider-Man would churn out something cool. It had its share of solid creators working on it, and usually dealt with something a little more off-beat. This particular issue shows Spidey, as he’s wrapping up capturing the villain from the previous issue (the Smuggler), but his night gets a little crazier than he thought it would. After finally packing up the costume for one night, Parker decides to call Debra Whitman and ask her to accompany him to meet Aunt May’s new beau, Nathan Lubensky for dinner the following day. We see that Debra has some pretty deep feelings for Peter, but we know his mind is elsewhere. The story has some nice little moments, and is definitely one that you should seek out!

Anyone that lost track of Spidey after the tumultuous Silver Age is really missing out on some great stories. Everyone knows of the excellence of Gerry Conway, but a couple of other scribes did the old web-head justice as well, and one of them is certainly Roger Stern. He wrote this story along with a few others in this title, and later took over the main title as well, and really made strides in the life of Peter Parker and his surrounding cast (Mary Jane especially). The art team is a great one too, and we have “Jubilant” John Romita Jr. (pencils), and Jim “Madman” Mooney to thank for that. The colors were provided by Ben Sean, the letters by Jim Novak. Your eyes do not deceive you, that is a cover by “Lanky” Frank Miller and Joe “The Rube” Rubinstein!

 

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Marvel Team-Up #80, “A Sorcerer Possessed!” and #81, 1979 “Last Rites”

I love team books, if not for just the different characters, then just because you get more “hero” bang for your buck! But if I had to choose between Marvel Team-UP and Marvel Two-in-One, I’d take the latter. 2-in-1 was just more quirky, or off-beat, if you will. I do however love Dr. Strange, and no matter what title he appears in, I’m going to buy it! In this two-parter, the Doc is somehow turned into a werewolf, and runs amok in NYC. It’s up to Clea, Spider-Man, and Satana to stop him! Throw in a guest appearance by Marie Laveau, and the ever faithful Wong, and you get an issue packed with excitement!

Although Chris Claremont isn’t really known for his work with the macabre, but if you dig, you’ll see he wrote a few different stories in the genre. He does a fine job in this story, showing the great concern Clea has for her mentor/lover! In the art department, we have guest penciler, Mike Vosburg, and he does an outstanding job! Assisting with the art (inks) are Gene Day (#80) and Steve Leialoha (#81)! Both men are solid inkers and have a nice resumé! Letters and colors are both recognizable names as well (colors for #80 are Petra Goldberg, and letters by Denise Wohl– colors in #81 are by Ben Sean, and letters by Rick Parker). Both issues have great covers, and Rich Buckler and Bob McLeod gave us the first one, then followed by Al Milgrom and Steve Leialoha on the second!

 

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Marvel Team-Up #19, 1973 “The Coming of Stegron The Dinosaur Man!”

You know, I don’t remember being a huge dinosaur enthusiast as a youth, but my son definitely is/was. He knows more facts about them than I’ll ever know or understand, and his love and knowledge of dinosaurs is something that not only fascinates me, but is utterly endearing as well. In this especially awesome issue of MTU (Marvel Team-Up #19), Spidey must journey to the Savage Land, and of course almost immediately meets up with the Lord of the Hidden Jungle, Ka-Zar! The trip ends up being a bit more complicated than Spidey wanted (of course, that Parker luck!), and we are introduced to a new villain, Stegron the Dinosaur Man!

A story that has two parts (continuing in the next ish of MTU), was brought to us by Marvel super-scribe, “Lively” Len Wein! Everyone that is a fan of Marvel Comics in the Bronze Age knows of Len’s legendary contributions, and they would continue for a long time after that as well. If you’re going to have a story like this one, you need top-notch talent on the artwork, for sure. One of the all-time masters, Gil “Sugar” Kane penciled this one, and the inks of “Fearless” Frank Giacoia match up perfectly with Kane’s work. Not to be left out, are colorist Glynis Wein, and letter Dave Hunt! Sprinkle in the editorial wits of “Rascally” Roy Thomas, and you have a Bronze Age classic! Enjoy!

 

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Marvel Team-Up #36 and #37 (1975) “Bedlam in the Balkans” and “Murder Means the Man-Wolf”

October is here, and the Halloween season is upon us all, so what better way to celebrate than with horror themed comic books! The first one I’m going to spotlight is an appearance of the Frankenstein Monster in Marvel Team-Up #36 & 37! The second issue actually gives us a Man-Wolf appearance as well, so you get double the monster fun! You get some good cop/bad cop from the monster, and that’s always cool, because the monster maybe be considered a villain by most, but  honestly, he’s  just misunderstood most of the time.

With the same core team creating both books, you get a consistency that really gives the book a strong foundation. Story by Gerry Conway, pencils by Sal Buscema, and inks by Vince Colletta, are the team for both parts of this two issue scare-fest! You also get two covers from Ed Hannigan (pencils) (Mike Esposito inks on #36, John Romita on #37), and both show some awesome action between Spidey and these two perennial horror icons!  Keep your eyes open all month-long for comic books featuring iconic horror characters!

 

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Marvel Team-Up #93, 1980 “Rags to Riches”

You can try to contain him, but you cannot even hope to stop the Tatterdemalion! Sorry for giving away the villain…as if the cover already didn’t! There were many goofy or one-off villains from the Silver and Bronze Ages, but there’s no doubt that one of my favorites is this guy! Created by the artistic genius of Tom Sutton (RIP), and Gerry Conway, this quirky character didn’t make many appearances, but when he did, it was hilarious! You cannot help but laugh, when a character’s profile page has statements like this in it…”He is an expert tap dancer, and a highly proficient bottle-cap collector” or my favorite…”He wears a long scarf, which is tipped with lead weights, as a weapon” or the coup de grâce…”Due to his lack of proper hygiene habits, the Tatterdemalion emits a harsh offensive odor at all times.” Folks, when you have abilities/powers like that, everyone fears you.

The story was written by Steven Grant, and although I don’t own many stories written by him, I do know that he’s a capable writer that also wrote some good Avengers stories back in the 1970’s/80’s. The pencils are by the exceptional Tom Sutton and the late, great Carmine Infantino, and I love Sutton’s pencils on Dr. Strange from the Bronze Age, as well as his inks on many other books. Speaking of inks, the incomparable Jim Mooney (RIP), inked this issue, and you get the consistency he always brought to the game! Colors by Ben Sean, letters by Rick Parker, and edited by Denny O’Neil! The awesome cover is by Don Perlin and Al Milgrom! Spider-Man, Werewolf by Night, “Cat’s Jazz Club”, and the Tatterdemalion…what else could be asked for in a comic book?

 

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Marvel Team-Up #39, 1975 – “Any Number Can Slay!”

During the 1970’s, Marvel was bursting at the seams with creative talent. The wide array of creator ideas, titles, and characters, pushed them far above DC in the opinion of many a comic book aficionado. They leaped forward due to the fact that their characters were much more unique, the settings were in the real world, and the creative teams were newer, younger, and had fresh ideas. Just one example of all that was Marvel Team-Up.

This title was basically a book for Spider-Man to gain even more presence in the Marvel Universe, and spotlight some more minor characters as well. Whether they were heroes or villains, the book always had a different perspective that helped the characters leap off of the pages and into the reader’s minds.

This team up with Spidey and the Human Torch is no different. We see the two heroes battle alone and then together, with the threat of a multitude of villains ranging from Montana, to the Big Man, to the Sandman! Story by Bill Mantlo, art by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito (cover by John Romita Sr.), colors by Don Warfield, letters by Karen Mantlo, and edited by Marv Wolfman! Enjoy!

 

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Marvel’s Unsung Heroes! -Ross Andru!

Even though I don’t own a ton of this man’s work, his pencils have always left me looking for more! The late, great, Ross Andru, left an impression on the world of comics, whether you know his pencils from Spider-Man, or his work on DC’s war titles (GI Combat, Our Army at War, etc.), you have to admire his work ethic, and overall positive attitude he brought with him to the drawing table. Often teamed up with long time friend, Mike Esposito, Andru did some really good things for the industry, and deserves to be shown some love right now! So, here’s to you Ross Andru, thanks for the great memories!

 

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