The Phantom Stranger 21, 1972, “The Resurrection of Johnny Glory!”

October is finally here! As you can see, it might be a new month, but I’m going to continue to spotlight the Phantom Stranger! These issues by Wein and Aparo are right up there with any short run in comics for me. The stories are creepy and moody, and you also get a Twilight Zone vibe from them. This run needs to get more airtime, and I intend to give it to the masses. Both creators are nothing short of legends, and they deserve it.

The story starts out with a guy named Johnny, as he’s being led to the electric chair for his crimes (murder). The switch is thrown, and Johnny is toast. The onlookers flinch from the scene. Later at the morgue, two shady looking individuals show up with paperwork stating that the body of Johnny is now their property. They take the body to an underground cave, where the rest of their satanic buddies are hanging out. They perform a ritual and bring Johnny back to life! The head man tells Johnny he was resurrected to murder a saint! There’s a spiritual leader from a middle eastern country that is touring the area, and this group wants him dead! Written by Len Wein, with art by Jim Aparo!

As usual, we get a Dr. 13 backup story. “Woman of Stone” is the usual set up where he debunks something that appears to be magic/sorcery. Not a big fan of the character, but I do recognize good scripting by Len Wein and art by Tony DeZuniga.

The cover is super cool, but I do have a nitpick about it. It’s the exact same image from the first splash page inside the issue. And I mean exact, no variation whatsoever (except the background). So kudos to Aparo for the cover, but the fact that it’s reused for an interior page is not awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 19, 1972 “Return to the Tomb of the Ice Giants!”

Welcome, to week four of the Halloween siege! In this week’s post, I’ll be spotlighting one of my favorite characters from DC comics, The Phantom Stranger! This character has been a favorite of mine ever since I began diving into the supernatural universe of DC comics. I talked about a story starring him on a podcast for Halloween in 2019 (click here to listen in!), and that is probably my favorite story about this enigmatic entity! But now, on to this story!

Our tale begins with the Phantom Stranger giving a monologue to us about the follies of mankind. We then see two men searching for something in the Arctic Circle. They have some machinery working to pump oil out of the ice, but then the pressure decreases rapidly. When they check the line, they’re stunned to see a sword the size of a Cadillac cutting through the line! We see a giant hand reaching out for them, and then they are gone. Back at the main office, two more men talk about how many have gone missing up here and they aim to find out why. A man named Blake then takes a jeep out to the work site, but an earthquake opens up a hole in the ice, and it looks like he’s a goner. A hand reaches out to save him, and it is none other than the Phantom Stranger that comes to his aid. The man in charge still wants to proceed with pipeline, though, but the Phantom Stranger and Blake try to talk him out of it. His greed will not allow him to stop, and it might just be his undoing!

This morality play by Len Wein (writer) and Jim Aparo (art) is not only a good one, but still holds relevancy in 2020. It doesn’t feel like you’re being force-fed their opinion or nonsense either. The story works well in all phases and truly shows the ability of both creators to tell a good story. The dialogue and visuals are both on par with anything of its time.

There’s also a backup story about Dr. 13, by Steve Skeates (writer) and Tony DeZuniga (art). This one involves a man that is being haunted by a ghostly voice that sounds like his dead father!

A bonus feature of Mark Merlin, Sleuth of the Supernatural closes out the issue nicely. This reprint stars the talents of Arnold Drake (story), and the art team of Mort Meskin and George Roussos!

This incredible issue is kicked off by the talents of Neal Adams! The cover is spectacular!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Savage Sword of Conan 39, 1979 “The Legions of the Dead!”

I feel it’s been a while since my last Conan magazine post, so why not spotlight one! This issue is more of a recent grab, and part of a lot if I remember correctly. There was a bit of a surprise inside, but I’ll get to that later. In this story we see an ancient evil in Hyboria, and it’s one that Conan must destroy! Also,a super cool chapter in the life of Solomon Kane!

In “Legions of the Dead (an adaptation of a story by L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter),” we see Conan ans his friend, Njal, as they hunted for some supper. They eat some freshly carved venison, along with the other tribesmen, when Njal decides to divide the troops, Conan questions if that’s a good move. Njal tells him to keep quiet and the other part of theĀ  tribe heads out. Hours pass, and they do not return. They set out to search for them and find something horrific. The men are inside a castle of the Hyperboreans, hanging and being sliced to ribbons! Conan decides to take matters into his own hands and take action!

This story by De Camp and Carter reads somewhat like a Howard story, and does show a cool little story from Conan’s youth. Some people are mixed on their work, as they took some liberties with the character and his history. Overall they did bring Conan back into prominence, so even if you don’t like their writing or how they adapted/re-imagined some parts of his history, you still should give them credit for helping Conan become a household name in the Bronze Age.

In the middle of this magazine, you get a real treat, as there a few pinups by Rudy Nebres! He is one of those fantastic artists you rarely hear about anymore, which is sad. He didn’t do as much work for Marvel as some, but the work he did was a lot of fun.

The second story, “Moon of Skulls,” is actually part three of a story that took place in two other issues, so I won’t go into detail on that one. Let’s just say Solomon Kane is in big trouble and is at the mercy of a vampire queen! Script by Don Glut, art by David Wenzel.

All in all a great issue. Two solid stories, pinups galore, and a great cover by Earl Norem!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limited Collectors’ Edition C-32, 1974 “Ghosts”

As October marches on, so do the macabre posts! This time around one of DC comics over-sized books will get the treatment! Limited Collectors Edition ran for 1972-1978, and had all sorts of strange comic book stories attached to it. In this edition, we see reprints from the ongoing series “Ghosts.” You get some pretty good quality in this one, and it’s a perfect book for the special treatment!

The stories are all “ghost” based, but some are just straight up ghosts, some are voodoo, a couple of witches, and more. There are also games, puzzles, a diorama, and other fun surprises inside this great book. This one definitely needs to be in your collection!

Writers include – Murray Boltinoff, Leo Dorfman, and Bob Rozakis! Artists include – Nick Cardy (cover), Art Saaf, Jim Aparo, Gerry Talaoc, John Calnan, Tony DeZuniga, George Tuska, E. R. Cruz, Ernie Chan, Jerry Grandenetti, Frank Redondo, Jack Sparling, and Sam Glanzman (back cover/diorama). Letterers include – Milt Snapinn, John Costanza, Jean Izzo, Ray Holloway, and Ben Oda.

 

Dracula Lives! 11, 1975 “Pit of Death!” and ” Lilith Unleashed!”

In trying to focus on more mags from the Bronze Age, I thought it was time Dracula made an appearance! The Count has a long history in Marvel Comics, and although the black and white mags are awesome, nothing compares to the Tomb of Dracula series that Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan worked on together. That said, don’t sell these stories short, because they have some fantastic creators on them! Speaking of which, inside the front cover, we see an incredible illustration by Bob Hall (first image after the cover)! It remains one of my all time favorite images of Dracula.

The meat of the book has some excellent work. The biggest part of the book is the adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel Dracula by Roy “The Boy” Thomas and Dick Giordano. It’s only one chapter but the pages are incredible. It was never finished in these format but both men finished it years later and it was reproduced in a trade/HC.

Another magnificent tale (part two) “Agents of Hell” is by Doug Moench and Tony DeZuniga. We see a young man trapped in the catacombs of a castle, and he must fight off the brides of Dracula, but even if he survives, can he defeat the greatest vampire that ever existed? That story is followed by “The Vampire of Mednegna.” This story shows a man named Arnold Paole, as he returns from a trip to Greece, but he has returned a very different man. Again, we get Doug Moench (writer) but the artwork was by Golden Age stalwart, Win Mortimer!

Finally we see a very graphic tale starring none other than Dracula’s daughter, Lilith! Within just a few short panels, she tears a rapist to pieces! This is a very different story though (not just blood and guts), and a must read because the author is none other than Steve “Baby” Gerber! The artwork is credited to three gentlemen that are names synonymous with the Bronze Age- Bob Brown, Frank Chiaramonte, and Pablo Marcos!

And let us not forget the cover that was painted by Steve Fabian!

 

 

 

Thor 253, 1976 “Chaos in the Kingdom of the Trolls!”

Some of my favorite comics are those of Thor, volume one. Especially the issues in the mid-200s. I really enjoy the way each story seems self-contained but also connecting to the previous and following issues in a way that wasn’t inconvenient. In this second part of a three-part story, Tor must team-up with his sworn enemy, Ulik the Troll. These two absolutely hate one another, but they must work together to defeat a dragon and then a giant! By story’s end though, Ulik and his minions are laughing at the Prince of Asgard!

I’m a big fan of “Lively” Len Wein (writer/editor). From his work as an editor (Watchmen, New Teen Titans), and vision in reviving the X-Men franchise (along with Dave Cockrum), he really should be recognized a lot more than anyone seems to give him credit. Artist “Big” John Buscema (pencils), is a master that let us too soon. His work on books like Conan, The Avengers, and Silver Surfer are the stuff of legend. Of course, as with most artists, some inkers suited his style better than others, but honestly, his pencils were strong enough that they typically would show right through. One of the inkers that did suite him quite well, was Tony DeZuniga (Jonah Hex, Black Orchid). He’s another one of those guys that rarely gets enough airtime, as an inker or penciler, and that is a travesty. Colors were by the ever-present Marie Severin. She’s someone who should definitely be on your radar simply because not only was she a great artist, but also because she was one of the few women in comics since back in the Silver Age. Letters were by Condoy (?). The cover was by Jack “King” Kirby, and even though there appears to have been some alterations, you can still see the weight that Kirby’s pencils carry.

 

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The House of Secrets (Millennium Edition – 2000) #92, 1971 “Swamp Thing”

As a long time Marvel zombie, I thought it would be prudent to broaden my horizons, so about a year ago (I think), I bought something from DC comics. Now, keep in mind, I’ve read some DC in recent years, and didn’t think very much of it, also the word on the street isn’t anything to get excited about either, as far as everything else they’re offering. So, what did I do? I grabbed some Alan Moore “Swamp Thing,” that’s what! I’ll admit, I had some preconceived notions about the book (negative), but they were dashed away in mere minutes. Moore took this character to new heights (from what I’ve read), and the book really opened my eyes to another comic book legend. My next thought was…”OK, but what about the beginnings of this character?” So, not long after reading the Moore run, I found a reprint copy of House of Secrets #92, Swamp Things first appearance. I knew it would be good, just from the creative team, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a short story, and the issue had some good stories in it as well, featuring creators like Dick Dillin, Alan Weiss, and Tony DeZuniga, just to name a few!

I know the original is pretty high-priced, so grab a copy of the reprint or a trade, this issue is required reading! Story by Len Wein, art (and cover) by Bernie Wrightson, colors by Tatjana Wood, and edited by Joe Orlando! With creators like that involved, you know it’ll be a slam-dunk! One last note, and I’ll get out of here. There is a foreword by Robert Greenberger, and he explains the details of how the idea came about for this specific story. It describes the behind the scenes for this one, and really is a super cool story involving Wein, Wrightson, Louise Simonson, Mike Kaluta, and others. This story is worth the price of admission alone!

 

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Thor #262, 1977. “Even An Immortal Can Die”

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You’ll soon come to realize that Thor is one of my all time favorite characters. When I had the chance to buy this book, and get the writer/editor, Len Wein to sign it for me (at C2E2 2013), I was ecstatic. The interior pencils are by the incomparable, Walt Simonson (with inks by the late Tony DeZuniga, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Joe Rosen), and really show his great skills with a pencil from early in his career. As if that wasn’t enough, you get a cover by ‘Big’ John Buscema, Joe Sinnott, and John Costanza! Enjoy!

Strange Tales #176, 1974. “The Golem”

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I love this tagline…”The thing that walks like a man”! Created by Len Wein and Big John Buscema, this character (Golem) didn’t stick around too long, but was pretty cool when he was present in the Marvel U. His stories had a mummy feel to them, for sure. Credits include- Mike Friedrich (script), Tony DeZuniga (art), and cover by John Romita Sr.! Enjoy!