As I continue plowing through #warcomicsmonth like a Sherman tank, I thought it would be awesome to give Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos a look! For Marvel fans, this is the big dog of war comics, with only some ancillary titles in the mix (you’ve got to count Captain America in there for a lot of his publishing history). Marvel really did a great job with this team, as it not only had (eventually) distinct personalities for each character, but it was full of diverse ones as well.
In this epic tale, Fury and the Howlers are trapped in enemy territory, as the Allies begin to bomb the city of Dresden. In this real world event (like quite a few of these tales) more than twenty thousand lives were lost. This issue shows the real cost of war and how often those that are not involved get caught in the ugliness. Yes, we also see the usual awesomeness of Fury and the Howlers kicking Nazi butt, and the issues that feature only that are fun as well. But, this one is a bit more profound than most, and will definitely get you thinking. Dum Dum, Izzy, Gabe, Dino, Pinky, etc., they’re all here in this explosive issue!
Written by Gary Friedrich, pencils by Dick Ayers (cover by Ayers as well), inks by Vince Colletta, colors by Dave Hunt, letters by John Duffy, and edited by Roy Thomas!
The Bronze Age will always be a huge focus for this blog, but honestly, the late Silver Age is when Marvel comics really started to turn the corner and become not only an innovator, but also super cool. The words trippy and groovy come to mind immediately when you look at their books from this period. The majority of their characters were in place, and the comic book revolution was in full swing by 1969!
This was also a sad time for Marvel, as Jack “King” Kirby was just about to leave the company for greener pastures over at DC comics. He’d have the freedom to write, pencil, and edit his books there, and who wouldn’t be excited about that (plus get paid more as well). The mighty Thor was taken to new heights by Kirby recently, as he’s been to space and met the force of nature known as Galactus, and the malevolent Ego the Living Planet!
In this issue we get a huge battle between Thor and Sif and Pluto and his hordes of the underworld! Fear not, as we’ll also see Balder the Brave, Thor, and even Zeus himself! This book is action packed, and really shows the scope of the Marvel universe as it pertains to the realms of the gods!
Written by Stan Lee, art by Jack “King” Kirby (pencils) and Vince Colletta (inks), and letters by Sam Rosen! The magnificent cover is also by Jack Kirby and Vince Coletta (with colors possibly by Marie Severin)!
If you would’ve told a comic book reader in the 1960s that Jack Kirby would soon be working for DC comics, and writing/drawing/editing a story about Superman vs a vampire, I’m sure there would’ve been some laughs. Well, welcome to 1971, where Kirby has again returned to DC and was given the freedom to create with very little oversight (other than DC being fools and redrawing his faces). He took over the lowly title of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, as to not bump another creator off of a good book. Yeah, that’s the kind of guy he was!
Inside we see the normal bombastic Kirby images that are larger than life, and exploding off of the page. A vampire, a werewolf (type creature), and of course the regulars from Metropolis. Clark and Jimmy need to find out why Laura Conway is acting strangely and why she has two puncture wounds on her neck! It doesn’t take long for the perpetrator to rear his sinister head, and the action is full on!
The cover has inks by Mike Royer, and his work with Kirby in this era is great (more of their work coming soon!). The interiors were inked by the oft maligned Vince Colletta, but honestly, they look fine in this issue. There are also a few pages of bonus material by the King, and a Newsboy Legion reprint with Joe Simon!
One of the easiest things to do is spotlight a comic book with a great creative team. This comic is very easy because the team consists of two of the best from the Bronze Age. Throw in an insane vampire, lost in some bizarre world he doesn’t understand, and voilà, awesomeness! So we see the man called Morbius, as he’s hazy about where he is and what’s going on. He comes upon two lovers, and the shenanigans ensue.
The title known as Adventures into Fear (only Fear in the indicia), was a reprint book in the beginnings but after the ninth issue, it switched to new horror material (featuring Man-Thing). After the nineteenth issue, Morbius, the Living Vampire took over! The man who wrote/plotted most of the stories (Man-Thing included) in Fear, was none other than Steve Gerber. Gerber really shined during his tenure at Marvel comics, and it’s a shame things ended the way they did, but at least we have the great comics we do! Art by P. Craig Russell (pencils) and Vince Colletta (inks), colors by George Roussos, and letters by Tom Orzechowski. The art in this one is fantastic, and really shows how the vampire is in different moods. Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer! There is also a neat little reprint in the back of the book as well that features art by Gene Colan!
Looking into the past can be exhilarating, thrilling, but also frustrating. The comic book industry as a whole didn’t keep the best records in decades past, but the smaller publishers (everyone except DC, Marvel, and E.C.) were especially atrocious. Trying to find credits for the exquisite covers on Dell comic books title Ghost Stories is maddening. Even the interior work (writing/art) isn’t always available. That said, these comics had some very good material a lot of the artistic material from the mind of Frank McLaughlin (not the painted cover (9), but interior pencils and inks – he did create the cover to issue 19). The man has a pretty extensive list of credits, from Marvel, DC, Charlton, Dell, etc. He’s one of those guys that seems to be forgotten except for the hardcore fans from yester-year. He was a solid artist and that’s the way his work should be remembered. Most of the scripts were written by Carl Memling, another name that’s tough to find credits for across the web. Lastly, we have some inks by the controversial Vince Colletta. He has a ton of credits for inking, and that is where some people take issue with him, but I try to look at it as the guy was being paid to do a job, and with very little time to do it. So, looking at it that way, I can easily say I have no problem with his work.
After the departure of Jack Kirby (in 1970), Marvel comics needed someone to step in and fill the gigantic shoes of that legend. Not that anyone can do what Kirby did exactly, but to keep the titles rolling on pace, and with solid work. The Fantastic Four and Thor were books that Kirby made into gold with his style and powerful pencils, not to mention his imagination. With the source material already in place, they turned to “Big” John Buscema to take over the artistic duties.
In this issue, we see the return of the mighty Mangog! One of the few beings that has actually rivaled Thor in power, and strength (and making bold statements!). Throw in the Warriors Three, the Grand Vizier, and just about every other inhabitant of noble Asgard, and you’ve got a story to remember! A slam-bang action issue that features all the characters you know and love from this corner of the Marvel Universe!
Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by “Big” John Buscema, inks by Vince Colletta, John Costanza on letters, and edited by Stan Lee!
The Bronze Age was an age of growing up for some preexisting characters, and the introduction of some new ones that were not only part of the zeitgeist of the times, but ones that would last a very long time afterward. One of these characters is the Ghost Rider! Opinions vary on who created what exactly, but we know that Mike Ploog, Gary Friedrich, and Roy Thomas were involved. Over the decades, there have been a few different people to carry the mantle of the Ghost Rider, but honestly, none are better than the original, Johnny Blaze.
In this issue, we see Blaze and his alter-ego battle dolphin killers…and a great white shark! Yes, shortly after the frenzy that was Jaws (summer of 1975), Bill Mantlo (writer), George Tuska (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Janice Cohen (colors), and Karen Mantlo (letters), gave us the awesomeness of Ghost Rider fighting Jaws (edited by Marv Wolfman, cover by Bob Brown and Dave Cockrum)!
Being a huge fan of Ray Harryhausen, I’m always delighted to see a comic book that was influenced by work of his. Well, there were at least books I know of that were straight up adaptations of his stop-motion work. One is Marvel Spotlight 25, and the other two are Worlds Unknown 7 & 8! Both of these comics showcase a film “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,” condensed, of course. We see Sinbad and his crew battle mythical monsters, evil sorcerers, and the like!
Len Wein (writer) is a guy who’s probably most known for being a part of resurrecting the X-Men franchise, and rightly so, but if you look at the entire body of work, he deserves much more credit. It doesn’t take a writing wizard to adapt a movie into a comic book, Ill give you that, but seeing his name in the credits of any book puts my mind at ease. The art team of George Tuska (interior pencils and cover pencils to issue 7) and Vince Colletta (inks- interiors and covers) is one that some might malign. I understand when people complain about Colletta rushing jobs and putting out substandard work. He has done some good work though, and I think issues like these two prove it. Glynis Wein (colors) and John Costanza (letters) both were always very solid and deserve kudos. On issue number eight, we get a cover by one of the masters of the comic book industry, Gil Kane!
After Jack Kirby left Marvel, I’m sure there were some that were very despondent, both within Marvel, and fans. One of the books he left, was Thor. Most would probably say that the Fantastic Four or Captain America are his crowning achievements, but for me, I think Thor is right up there with anything he ever gave us during his time at Marvel Comics. So, the stage is set, Kirby is gone, and who can even possibly try to fill his shoes? Enter John Buscema! The man’s work is well documented, and for all the greats of his time, he stands tall, right there among them. In this issue, we see Odin brought back to life with the help of Hela! We also get a treat, and see the god of war, Pluto, as he battles Thor!
As I’ve already pointed out, this issue is a good one, and basically, you have two elements driving that fact. First is the great creative team of Gerry Conway (writer), “Big” John Buscema (pencils), Jim Mooney (inks), Artie Simek (letters), Gil Kane (cover pencils), and Vince Colletta (cover inks)! The second is the awesome continuity that had been put into place by Lee and Kirby, up until this point in the character’s history. Throw those things together, and you get a great title!
For a time, Marvel tried to further its reading base by creating some books that had female protagonists. One of those characters was “The Cat,” Greer Nelson. She was featured in her own short-lived series, and after became an Avenger. She eventually mutated into a tiger-woman, named Tigra! She also had a stint in Marvel Chillers, and in this issue, she battled none other than Kraven the Hunter! We all know that Kraven is a bad mamma jamma, but don’t worry, Tigra can hold her own!
The creative team on this one was unique as this was the only issue they all worked on (writer, pencils, inks) in the series. You have X-Man supreme, “Clever” Chris Claremont (writer), “Free-Wheelin” Frank Robbins (pencils), “Valiant” Vince Colletta (inks), John Costanza (letters), and George Roussos (colors), that gave us this gem! Oh, and let us not forget editor “Marvelous” Marv Wolfman, and “Jazzy” Johnny Romita (pencils), and “Terrific” Tom Palmer (inks), with the cover!