Doctor Strange 12, 1976 “Final Curtain!”

It’s no secret that Doctor Strange is my favorite character. His 1974 series is undoubtedly one of the most underrated series of all time. From start to finish it’s incredible. And let’s be honest, with creators like Steve Englehart, Gene Colan, Roger Stern, Jim Starlin, Tom Sutton, Marv Wolfman, Rudy Nebres, Paul Smith (and more!), you can’t go wrong! This particular issue deals with the Doc, as he’s about to be in conflict with Eternity himself, for the soul of his recently deceased master, the Ancient One! A flashback of the insidious Baron Mordo, and the Doc and Clea see the world die!

As the creative tag-team of Steve Englehart (writer) and Gene Colan (pencils) was beginning to wind down, one might think that the material might suffer, but this is not so. Both men brought their “A” game until the end of the run. It’s to be expected though, as both were consummate pros throughout their comic book careers. Another link in the awesome creative chain, is Tom Palmer (inks, colors). His work alongside Colan is legendary, even if you only look at this title or Tomb of Dracula. Yet another name synonymous with Bronze Age royalty is Tom Orzechowski (letters). He was a constant at Marvel and definitely earned his place among these other greats with his diligence. Throw in Marv Wolfman (editor), and the credits are full of amazing creators that gave their best!

 

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Marvel Two-in-One 51, 1979 “Full House–Dragons High!”

As the train rolls on, and Marvel Two-in-One is still at the forefront of my coconut, this issue that was a recent purchase is ready for the spotlight! Anytime you pair two superheros together, it’s a plus, but when you add several, then the odds have just increased substantially of the book catching the eye of a potential reader. Team books offer so much with all the varying personalities, potential strife, and vast array of powers, that you can’t get out of a solo book (although Doctor Strange is the best character and his ’74 series is the best of all time). In this marvelous tale, we see a few heroes gather for a night of poker, and companionship. We see Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, The Beast, Nick Fury, Jarvis, and of course, The Thing (also a minor character named Blake Tower, a District Attorney from the pages of Daredevil). Good action issue, but honestly, it’s all about the personal interactions between the heroes during some “down time.”

Peter Gillis is a name I know from the pages of Doctor Strange. He wrote a few stories in that mag, and did a fine job. In this book, he does an excellent job of weaving the action in with the quiet moments of the book. Also adding some great banter between the heroes as they spring into action! The art team of Frank Miller (pencils) and Bob McLeod (inks), really bring their “A” game on this book! One page in particular shows the heroes in shadow, in a smoke-filled room playing cards that is outstanding. No Bronze Age book would be complete without the letters of Tom Orzechowski and colors of Glynis Wein! And if that wasn’t enough, you get the legendary Roger Stern (another great name who has also written some very good Doc Strange stories!) as editor! And, last  but not least, you get a bonus as George Pérez and Joe Sinnott give us this fabulous cover!

 

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Fear 20, 1973 “Morbius the Living Vampire!”

The title “Fear,” was one that started out as a reprint vehicle for the giant monsters of the Atlas Age Comics. These stories featured work from some giants of the industry- Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Russ Heath, Gene Colan, and more. The book eventually morphed into one that contained all new material, starting with issue ten, and the Man-Thing, the book took a turn. We now saw new material, and material with an edge that had previously been unseen in the title (and most mainstream comics). In this story, Morbius is in the midst of a blood-lust, and attacks a woman. He then recounts his last few adventures (against the X-Men and a solo story), then meets two holy men. He seems to be calmed by their presence, but we soon find out why, and that one of these two men is not quite what he seems!

He doesn’t get much credit, but Mike Friedrich (writer) has made a few very nice contributions to the comic book industry over the years, and deserves a high-five for them!  I’m not sure, but this has to be one of the first works of Paul Gulacy (pencils) in the biz. He’s one of those guys that’s done a wide variety of work on both sides of the street. Jack Abel (inks) is a name I know from his contributions on Tomb of Dracula. He was active in the 1950’s and didn’t let up until the 1990’s. Marvel staples Tom Orzechowski (letters) and George Roussos (colors) are two more reasons that most of what Marvel published during the Bronze Age was incredibly consistent (plus Roy Thomas – editor). King of the covers, Gil Kane (pencils), and his oft collaborator, Frank Giacoia (inks), bring this fabulous cover to life!

 

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Doc Savage 8, 1973 “Werewolf’s Lair!”

Just for the record, I know virtually nothing about Doc Savage. That said, anytime you throw a classic monster in a comic book, I’m in! This wacky story reminds me of an episode of Johnny Quest (Werewolf of the Timberland) for several reasons. I wont get into them because it would spoil the issue, but you do get some good action, and some werewolf face-time as well. It’s part two of a story, so the circumstances leading up to this is lost on me, but that aside, it’s still very enjoyable. As the last issue in the series, you get the distinct impression it was cancelled abruptly because there’s no reference to cancellation at all.

As a whole, I like the work of Tony “The Tiger” Isabella (writer). He did some really cool horror stuff back in the early Bronze Age that’s worth looking up. The art team, led by “Riotous” Rich Buckler (cover pencils and interior layouts), are very solid. You get finishes and inks by “Terrific” Tom Palmer (Tomb of Dracula, The Avengers) and Jack Abel (GI Combat, Our Army at War) . Both men have had extensive careers in the industry, and proven themselves to be top-notch at their craft. Once again, the duo of “Titanic” Tom Orzechowski (letters) and “Genuine” George Roussos (colors), complete this list of comic book legends!

 

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Werewolf by Night #17, 1974 “The Behemoth!”

Everyone likes certain comics for a specific reason. The story, the artwork, the characters, and so on. Sometimes it’s as simple as a splash page, as is the case for me and this issue. I enjoy this title from beginning to end, no matter who the creative team happens to be on any particular issue. The work by Mike Ploog is obviously incredible, but by this time, he’d bowed out, and others took the reigns. Speaking of the reigns, in this particular issue, we see Jack and his handler/friend/lover, Topaz, as they’ve bitten off a bit more than they can chew with Baron Thunder! Not only is he the head of the secret group known only as “The Committee,” but he has a new ally on his side and completely under his command—The Behemoth!

Of course people have their favorites when it comes to creators, but I love a few characters so much, I can enjoy them almost all the time, no matter who is behind the steering wheel. It was only four issues long, but “Mischievous” Mike Friedrich (writer) kept the book moving forward. He’s one of those guys that gets lost among the giants of the era, but he certainly did a fine job. The artwork was by veteran “Dapper” Don Perlin (pencils and inks). I’ve always admired his work and when I look deep, I see a man who gave everything he had to an industry that didn’t always treat its creators fairly. Two more of my favorite creators in “Titanic” Tom Orzechowski (letters) and “Genuine” George Roussos (colors) round out the solid team that gave us this eerie read! A book needs a cover, and if you’re going to do it right, get Gil “Sugar” Kane and “Fearless” Frank Giacoia for the job!

 

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Captain Marvel #42, 1976 “Shootout at The O.K. Cosmic Corral!”

Taking a quick break from my look at Marvel Premiere, let us now see what the Marvel cosmic universe holds! As the Bronze Age rolled on, it was quite clear that Marvel was going to keep the cosmic train rolling, and heroes such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Starlord, and of course, Captain Marvel! The creative minds behind this invigorating time were varying but exquisite nonetheless. In this particular story, we get to see not only the Kree man, Mar-Vell, but also Rick Jones, and the mysterious cosmic being the Stranger! One of the reasons I love this issue is because of the title. I’m a sucker for anything related to the old West, such as movies like “Tombstone” and the like. The scene in that film where the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral occurs is fantastic, so the idea of naming this story after that event is doubly as cool!

The writer of this issue is none other than “Stainless” Steve Englehart! His abilities for concocting incredible stories are well-known, and anyone out there that doesn’t own first hand evidence of that, pick up his Avengers stories, Captain America, Dr. Strange, etc. The pencils (and plot assist) are by the ever reliable Al Milgrom (cover as well, with inks by Alan Weiss). This guy is very underrated, and when you look at the pencils, inks, plots, scripts, etc., you have to give the man his due. The inks are by two consummate pros, and no one can deny that Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito are anything other than that. The colors are by Phil Rachelson and the letters by Marvel mainstay Tom Orzechowski!

 

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Jungle Action #7, 1973 “Death Regiments Beneath Wakanda”

The title Jungle Action, started off as a reprint book showcasing stories from the 1950’s of…well, jungle action, from the series of the same title (and others). In issue #5 however, the book became a vehicle for the Black Panther! This Jack Kirby creation was very prominent in the pages of the Fantastic Four, but after Kirby left, it seemed like the character lost his home. The character would find a home here, then transition to the Avengers, and become a regular there for a time.

The writer, ‘Dutiful’ Don McGregor, is one that had the Midas touch when it came to certain characters, and the Black Panther is definitely one of them! Teamed with penciler ‘Riotous’ Rich Buckler, the two would be a solid duo that cranked out many great books over time. Inks by ‘Santa’ Klaus Janson, letters by ‘Titanic’ Tom Orzechowski, colors by Glynis Wein, and edited by ‘Rascally’ Roy Thomas!

 

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Doctor Strange #38, 1979 “Eye of the Beholder!”

To close out the 1970’s, Chris Claremont had a short stint on this title, as it had become a bit of a merry-go-round of creative teams for the last couple of years. Claremont took his turn (as if he didn’t have enough on his plate with the then resurgent X-Men!), and didn’t disappoint. He brings a new character to the book, named Sara Wolfe. She’s an “old friend” of the Doc’s, and you can immediately see the “Betty and Veronica” approach taking a foot-hold on the book. Matched with the eerie artwork of Gene Colan, this book definitely reminds you of a horror story. Speaking of the story, Wong gets captured by an unknown foe, then the Doc must face Native American demons, for his eternal soul!

Written by “Superscribe” Chris Claremont, pencils by Gene “The Dean” Colan, inks by “Delightful” Dan Green, letters by “Terrific” Tom Orzechowski, colors by “Boisterous” Bob Sharen, and edited by “Joyful” Jo Duffy! Don’t forget the awesome cover by Bob Hall and Terry Austin! A great creative team for the greatest sorcerer in the universe! Enjoy!

 

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Werewolf by Night #12, 1973 “Cry Monster”

It’s time for some werewolf action! There are very few books that can hang with Werewolf by Night (vol. 1) in the all-time greats of horror comics from the 1970’s (The Tomb of Dracula being the best). This title started out with some fantastic creators on it. The names Ploog, Conway, Wolfman, Kane, and others, brought this character to life and gave him a world to play in, and share with other great characters from the Marvel Universe, as well.  Later (issue #20 or so), you had a different creative team take the reins, and put a spin on the book that was unexpected, but was a ton of fun! That team was Doug Moench and Don Perlin! This issue was a battle between the Werewolf by Night, Jack Russell, and a strange nemesis called “The Hangman.” This kooky guy is all sorts of crazy, and believe it or not, he’s crazy enough to keep the werewolf at bay for a while!

The creative team on this one was nothing short of spectacular. You get ‘Marvelous’ Marv Wolfman writing, Pencils by the great Gil Kane (RIP), inks by the underrated Don Perlin, Mr. Tom Orzechowski lettering, and Linda Lessmann on colors! Of course, we have Roy ‘The Boy’ Thomas editing, as was the norm in the early 1970’s. Sometimes I wonder how some of these creators from that era had time to sleep! Check out this incredible cover by John Romita! Well, without further interruption, let’s take a look at some Werewolf by Night! (Insert crazy howl here)! Enjoy!

 

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X-Men Classic #65 (Uncanny X-Men #161, 1982)

I just started to grab some of these X-Men reprints, and wow, are they something! I love the X-Men, and wanted to find a way to get my hands on some of their older material without breaking the bank, and this title was just the way to go. Typically, with reprint titles, Marvel stays pretty close on the cover artwork to the original work. For some reason they really went in the opposite direction with some of these books. Not that I’m complaining mind you, because I’m a big fan of the work of Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell. He really stands out with his style, but also “gets it”, when it comes to being faithful to the source material. Check out the awesome work by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Bob Wiacek, Tom Orzechowski, Glynis Wein (Oliver), and Louise Jones (Simonson)!

In this issue we see the first meeting (via flashback) between Xavier and Magneto from way back in the day! Also, we see the Brood, Gabrielle Haller, Cyclops and Storm having a power struggle, albeit a brief one, and then a battle with Xavier and Magneto on one side, and Baron Strucker and Hydra on the other!

 

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