Merry Christmas to everyone out there! This week I’ll keep with the theme of anthology books, but with a holiday story! One of Marvel’s most beloved characters is definitely Ben Grimm. His kind heart and love for his friends is one of legend, his fights with Johnny notwithstanding! This story opens up with a gorgeous splash page that really sets the holiday mood. This wild tale involves the Puppet Master, Ben, and Alicia. You see, the Puppet Master is fresh out of prison, and the shenanigans must ensue. He convinces Alicia that he’s no longer evil, and then the two of them, plus The Thing head to his homeland (Transia) as a Christmas present from the FF. It doesn’t take long for the trio to get into trouble, as Bova and Modred the Mystic join the cast in this crazy holiday issue!
Written by Mark Gruenwald, art by Frank Springer (pencils and cover) and Chic Stone (inks), colors by George Roussos, letters by Michael Higgins, and edited by Jim Salicrup! This is a very wacky issue, but so much fun. The holiday backdrop is perfect for this story and for today’s post! Merry Christmas!
For anyone that’s not aware, Marvel Fanfare is an incredibly awesome title. A sixty issue run that included a plethora of legendary creators, plus some up-and-comers as well. The stories varied from the macabre to straight up superhero tales, then sprinkle in some holiday themed narrative , and even the bizarre. There are certain names that in the comic book industry that are synonymous with the term bizarre (in a good way), and one of them for sure is Jim Starlin (story and pencils). In these two issues, he’s partnered with his oft time collaborator, Allen Milgrom (inks and some pencils/finishes).
The two-part story features Dr. Strange being accosted by his long time nemesis, Xandu! This powerful mage also has a multitude of minions in this story to help him carry out his devious doings. The good ol’ Doc reaches out to summon help in the form of the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing! The Doc is in a bad way, and only Ben Grimm and his power and bravery can help. The second part (issue 21), finds Dr. Strange trying to fight Xandu and referee a fight between The Thing and his long time antagonist The Hulk!
This story is one that features really cool artwork from Gemini (“Jim and I”, I being Al Milgrom,). All the characters look great, and these two creators work very well together. There are also some fantastic pin-ups in the back of issue twenty, most by Charles Vess, with a few by Carl Potts! Don’t sleep on this series, pick up the issues when possible!
Roy “The Boy’ Thomas, is one of my all-time favorite comic book creators. Not only is he one of the best writers, editors, and creators of characters (the two teams I’ll focus on now!), but also one of the best historians of the industry as well (Alter Ego). One of the things I think he did best was create teams that were retcons (retroactive continuity- meaning they didn’t exist in the same time-frame where their stories were written, but during the Golden Age instead).
Whether it was battling the Red Skull, fighting alongside The Thing against more Nazis, or arm in arm with The Invaders in the European Theater, these two teams were always right in the middle of the action! Other than Rascally Roy, these characters were brought to life by the best, including Jack “King” Kirby, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Frank Robbins, Alan Kupperberg, Frank Springer, Vince Colletta, Joe Sinnott, Chic Stone, Don Glut, and more! Images from Marvel Premiere 28, Marvel Two-in-One Annual 2 (1976), The Invaders 41, 15, 35, 36, and 37 (1976-1978)!
As of now, you can buy a deluxe hardcover of this great story, but back in the day, you had to grab the single issues. One of my favorite off-beat books of all time is most certainly Marvel Two-in-One! The title almost always featured Ben Grimm, and this Jack Kirby creation is one of the best characters to spring from his incredible mind. When thrown-in with another character, Grimm really shines. His personality is often repressed slightly when issue after issue of Fantastic Four he was portrayed as just muscle (with exception of an issue here and there). His sense of humor really shined in these stories, and solidified him as one of Marvel’s greatest characters.
One of the names synonymous with Marvel Comic’s history is Mark Gruenwald (writer). His days as an editor, writer, and overall continuity cop are nothing short of legendary. Along with Ralph Macchio (writer), these two men gave us an epic story that endures! If you need two men to render a story, you might as well get John Byrne (pencils) and Joe Sinnott (inks)! Toss in names like Bob Sharen (colors), John Costanza (letters), Diana Albers (letters), George Pérez (cover pencils to 55), and Roger Stern (editor), and the dream team is set!
I figured with Ant-Man still on people’s minds, we could journey into the past, and check out an appearance of this eccentric character. Not only do you get him, but also the blue-eyed Thing! The Thing gets sucked into a Microverse, and it’s up to Ant-Man (with an assist by Reed Richards) to bring him back in one piece. But what if Ben doesn’t want to come back? Just think about it for a minute. What if Ben is whisked away to a world where he’s adored, and not feared? Would anyone want to come back to a world where you feel tormented?
This was a great phase of this title, when you had regular artists like “Rampaging” Ron Wilson (pencils) and “Cheerful” Chic Stone (inks) bringing you fantastic interior work. Still fairly young in his Marvel career (but not comics in general), Tom Defalco (writer) gives us a solid story that emphasizes what Ben Grimm is really all about. Colors are by Christie Scheele, letters by Rick Parker and Michael Higgins. The editor is one that was an absolute rock for Marvel throughout the years, Mr. Jim Salicrup!
In this double-sized post, I’ll be showcasing a two-part story featuring the Thing, as he takes on the menace of Ultron! The good news is, he wont have to face him alone. The bad news is, that even with Machine Man and Jocasta, he’s still in over his head! The entire series of Marvel Two-in-One was just something to marvel at (no pun intended). The myriad of stories and creators was a melting pot during the Bronze Age for some of Marvel’s best, and most talented creators. Especially when you look at the fact that most don’t get the recognition they deserve. Names like Ron Wilson, Chic Stone, Tom Defalco, David Anthony Kraft, Jo Duffy, Alan Kupperberg, and so on. These professionals gave it their all, and whether you want to admit it or not, were just as big a part of the industry as some of the more recognized names at that time. They kept characters roles expanding, as well as keeping them in-line with continuity and moving forward.
This great two-part story was given to us by Tom Defalco (writer), Ron Wilson (cover and interior pencils), Chic Stone (cover inks) Joe Rosen (letters), Don Warfield and George Roussos (colors), and edited by Jim Salicrup! The inking was done by committee, but at no time did the work suffer for it. Sometimes when you get too many hands in the pot, you have a recipe for disaster, but not here! Some really good character interaction plus great humor as well. Feast your eyes on these two books!
As promised, here is the second part of the Thing/Yancy Street Gang/Jack of Hearts story! At the end of the last issue, we saw the Thing get captured by the Machinesmith, and his robots. Now, Jack of Hearts enters the fray, and the plot thickens! Everything actually looks like it’s going to get better, as Ben Grimm escapes his bonds, and attempts to attack the Machinesmith. He gets mind-controlled though, and is then sent to kill Jack of Hearts! A great brawl between both heroes ensues, and then more craziness with the Yancy Street Gang, as well!
Another great one from Bill Mantlo, and pencils by Chic Stone (RIP),but sadly, Stone doesn’t ink his pencils again (as he did in the earlier issue), and no offense to Tex Blaisdell (RIP), but the artwork was definitely sub-par compared to last issues brilliance. Not that it’s bad, but it’s just not up to the level that Stone gave us before. The colorist is Mario Sen, letters by Elaine Heinl and Gaspar, edited by Roger Stern, and the cover once again, by Chic Stone! Enjoy!
As we all know, the Yancy Street Gang is usually the type to tease, heckle, and even try to injure their former friend, Ben Grimm. But in this issue, they actually lend a hand in helping the Thing defeat the menace of the Machinesmith! Well, the issue in question doesn’t actually hold good tidings by the end for Mr. Grimm, but I can tell you that there are gangsters, and a game played between the members of the FF, including Agatha Harkness, and Franklin Richards. Also, a special appearance by that loveable letter carrier, Willie Lumpkin!
With a great story by the incomparable Bill Mantlo, pencils and inks by Chic Stone (great inker, and incredibly underrated penciler- just look at this issue!), colors by Bob Sharen, letters by Diana Albers and Gaspar, and edited by Roger Stern! And let us not forget the awesome cover by Ron Wilson, Joe Sinnott, and Irv Watanabe! This is one of those kooky issues that really is a great read. You get a fantastic heart-warming scene in the beginning with the FF and Ben, then some solid action with the Yancy Street Gang and robots, which are operating under the influence of a quirky villain like the Machinesmith. It’s all just perfection. It’s a no-brainer to grab this issue! Enjoy (and since I’m a day late with this post, look for part 2 of this story, later today) !
You might think by the cover, that you’ve got the villain for this issue figured out. Well, you kind of do, but there’s a twist inside these pages, and this story couldn’t work in any other title, than Marvel 2-in-One! In this fantastic tale, we see the Puppet Master, who had been thought dead from a previous battle, as he uses his magic to take over Thor’s mind, and force him to attack the Fantastic Four. After laying a pretty bad beating on them, Thor regains his senses, and backs off. Later, the Thing finds out that the perpetrator of these foul deeds is in fact Puppet Master. Now though, we see that he has made a puppet of the Thing, and he forces he and Thor to fight. We also see that there is another helping Puppet Master achieve greater feats. The radioactive power of Radion, is helping him! Dr. Henri Sorel was originally a research physicist, but is now in the employ of Puppet Master!
This super cool story from the 1970’s was definitely a fun ride. There is also a special guest appearance by Wundarr, as well! What else is to be expected from Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, & Herb Trimpe? You really get a sense that guys truly enjoyed working together on this book, and in the industry as a whole! Check out that awesome cover, by none other than the fantastic Gil Kane! See you in three days!