Wednesday, March 4, 2015

September 1975 Part Two: The Epic Known as "Panther's Rage" Comes to a Conclusion!


The Incredible Hulk 191
"The Triumph of the Toad!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Herb Trimpe and Joe Staton
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Herb Trimpe and Dan Adkins

The Hulk finds himself and his friends held captive by the Toad People on their strange metallic alien planet.  The Hulk's friends, Crackajack and Jarella, aren't who he thinks they are; they're actually a creation of The Shaper of Worlds.  The Shaper gave them to the Hulk as a gift, along with the paradise world that the Toads found them in.  Now, using technology that finds traces of the Shaper's power, the Toad King and Queen order the Hulk to bring the Shaper back to them so that they can use his power to fuel their own planet's technological strength.   The Hulk doesn't like doing anybody's bidding, so he fights the Toad crew until the fake Jarella urges him to do the job.  The Toads strap a Skrull Nulltron bomb to the Hulk's back, and they send him back to the paradise planet to retrieve the Shaper.  Normally the Shaper would have no problem defeating the Hulk, but even his powers are no match once the two meet, and the bomb goes off, incapacitating him.  The Toad aliens arrive on a ship where they load up the Shaper, but leave the Hulk behind.  The Shaper's lackey, Glorian, arrives in search of his missing master.  Once the Hulk fills him in on what's transpired, he takes the brute back with him to the Toad planet.  The peaceful Glorian begs the Toad king to release the Shaper, and is shot in the back for his troubles.  Glorian's painful scream of anguish causes the Shaper to re-awaken.  Confused by the emotion that he actually feels pain for his thrall, the Shaper is unable to hold on to his powers.  This causes the fake Jarella and Crackajack to transform back into their original forms as alien slugs.  The Hulk is none too happy at this current development. Flying into a monstrous rage, he trashes not only the Toad creatures, along with their king, but also all the technology on their planet.  The Shaper offers to return the Hulkster back to his paradise planet, but the Hulk wants nothing to do with false happiness, so he is sent back to earth.  The story ends with the pathetic Toads begging the Shaper to repair their planet, but he takes Glorian and leaves them to wallow in their misery. -Tom McMillion



Scott McIntyre: At least Joe Staton is back, giving ample assistance to Herb Trimpe. He’s far better suited to the book than Marie Severin’s scratchy inks. The story itself it a bit of a letdown. The Toad Men, while fairly lame adversaries, were eerie in their first appearance in 1962, especially drawn by the killer Kirby/Ditko team style that was so rare in those days. Here, they come off as low rent Skrulls and the tie to the Kree (again?) is yawn- as well as eye-roll inducing. I’m just a tad weary of the Kree at this point, especially after the tiresome, nearly endless “origin of Mantis” in The Avengers. This is just a standard, Hulk-em-up, with little to show for it. Hulk rejects fake paradise, Glorian is (I guess) killed and the Shaper experiences grief for the first time. As the Trimpe Era winds down, I hoped for a fun ending. Maybe there’s still time.

Matthew Bradley: Starting now, I’ve arrived just in time for the twilight of Trimpe’s tenure, with Staton back in the saddle after Marie’s one-off last issue.  Amid the endless debate over his inkers, it’s easy to forget what a superb storyteller Herb is, impressing me here with his layouts in general and in particular with how skillfully he varies the size of his panels to suit the images they contain; love the casual “Flik!” of Torkon’s tongue in page 18, panel 5.  I’ve always said that the Shaper is a character who must be used with great care, so my hat is off to Len—whose stint on this book has so far been nothing if not uneven—for doing just that, contrasting his near-omnipotence and great stature with his sadness over Glorian’s apparent, if impermanent, passing.





Chris Blake: It’s hard not to feel a little sad for the Shaper.  He had discovered the value of giving the benefits of his powers to others, but now the Hulk is declining that gift.  What’s worse is that the Toads thought they could steal that power, when it might’ve been given to them freely.  Worst of all is that these actions may have cost the life of Glorian, the Shaper’s only companion, and the one who had opened up the Shaper’s mind to the possibility of giving.  It’s a bit of a surprise that the Hulk, who we think of as having fewer marbles in the bag than most of us, would reject a perceived reality based only on fantasy; seems that even the Hulk recognizes the ephemeral nature of dreams.  Nice touch by Len & Herb to have the paradisal planetoid grind its way back to rocks and dirt when it no longer has the Hulk’s imaginings to sustain it.






The Invincible Iron Man 78
"Long Time Gone"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane

Tony recalls Iron Man’s visit to Viet Nam for the field test of his “new toy,” able to fire a laser-guided 50-pound shell more than 20 miles.  Major Al Stargrom’s orders are verbal, allowing the U.S. plausible deniability in the event of disaster, which swiftly ensues after Stargrom is killed by a sniper.  The gun is destroyed with missiles by enemy planesleaving the G.I.s to be wiped out and Shellhead in need of a recharge from the battery of a wrecked truckbut not before taking out the camp it had targeted; encountering a blinded Vietnamese boy, I.M. uses his repulsors to form a burial mound inscribed “Why,” then vows “to avenge those whose lives have been lost through the ignorance of men like the man I once was,” back in the present. -Matthew Bradley




Matthew: “We figured you were so wiped out by the cataclysmic conclusion of the War of the Super-Villains that you needed a breather before following Iron Man’s journey into the realm of the Black Lama.  So we herewith present an untold tale of Iron Man’s past.”  Okay, guys, if that’s your story, you stick to it, but to me it looks more like you needed a breather, and this is one of those D3-mandated inventory fill-ins that became Bill’s bailiwick, with Tuskolletta back on board.  That said, this overt anti-war tale is fairly mature for a funny-book, set in October 1973 and appearing about two months after we’d evacuated our embassy in Saigon; Stargrom is, per SuperMegaMonkey, “pretty clearly an amalgam of Al Milgrom and [Viet Nam vet] Jim Starlin.”

Scott: At last we’re finally given a detailed backstory as to why Tony Stark completely switched gears and stopped developing munitions. I’m not all that fond of stories so mired in a political agenda but it’s a valuable point they drive home, if laid on a tad thick. The Tuska/Colletta art isn’t anything to go nuts over, nor is it anything to be upset about. However, it is energetic. The stink of death permeates this story and it’s a stark (see what I did there?) reminder of the cost in human lives. This still feels like a fill-in issue, though. A one-shot after years of epic arcs always feels that way.  
                               



The Man-Thing 21
“A Lunatic on Every Corner”
Story by Steve Gerber 
Art Jim Mooney
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Pursuing the man who stole the nightmare box, the reptilian demons run amuck in downtown Atlanta. The police arrive but their bullets have no effect on the creatures or the observing Man-Thing. The swamp monster grabs a skid on a low flying helicopter and is dumped blocks away in a park. Across the street, a woman named Elsbeth Duhl decides to leave her abusive husband, the man grumbling that in the name of Thog, he’s tried to make things work. Outside, she sees the Man-Thing and tentatively approaches — but the Scavenger swoops down and flies her away, screaming that Thog said he could have her. Back at the Atlanta Journal, Dani Nicolle is arguing on the phone that she already gave a nightmare box to the courier and that it must be missing. Overcome by depression, she reaches for the box in her desk and expels her painful emotions inside the mysterious object. At an abandoned house, the Scavenger tells Elsbeth that he was born incapable of feeling pain or any other sensation — as a child he tried to burn his hand on an open flame but it simply healed like nothing happened. He couldn’t even feel his first kiss. After attempting suicide he was institutionalized, but Thog freed him and finally gave him the power to feel. The Scavenger embraces Elsbeth, stripping her down to her bones in ecstasy.  In a junkyard, two energy cocoons land in front of the Man-Thing: the evil wizard Klonus and the barbarian Mortak emerge. They claim that Thog freed them to kill the muck man. Klonus fires an energy beam through the Man-Thing’s head, awakening the mind of Ted Sallis who is horrified at his monstrous form. Suddenly, the demonic Thog, the Nether-Spawn, appears, claiming victory. -Thomas Flynn


Tom Flynn: Boy, lots of things going on here. I assume everything will tie together — the nightmare boxes, reptile demons, Dani Nicolle, the Scavenger, Thog — but Gerber better get his act in gear since there is only one issue left of The Man-Thing. I’m a little out of my depths with such throwback characters as Thog, Klonus and Mortak since I only just started reading the series, but I assume that my fellow professors will connect the dots. Just found out that Jim Mooney’s first published work appeared in the pages of Conan’s old stomping ground, Weird Tales. Gerber must have enjoyed working with Mooney since they went on to collaborate on the short-lived Omega the Unknown in 1976.

Mark: Prof Tom hopes "everything will tie together" as the title shambles toward the chopping block next ish, but having witnessed - for the last ten plus installments or so - Steve Gerber throw handfuls of random ideas/characters into the air in the hope they assemble by osmosis into something coherent while he's already out shopping for the next batch of oddball ingredients, my only hope is that we somehow stumble upon a lucky lotto ticket, lying unclaimed on the sidewalk.

Gerber employs his now standard plot device of introing a character in domestic distress, here one Elsbeth Duhl, who's promptly offered up for slaughter at the hands (and lips) of the Scavenger. Ecch. His oddball, World Weekly News backstory explains nothing; that he was up-powered by red devil with a pitchfork Thog ties him into the miry mess of a plot, one supposes, but Scav's sole claim to fame is in managing to be both cardboard cutout and one of the most odious characters it's ever been my misfortune to spend time with.

Ya know, maybe ole Dr. Wertham was on to something after all...





Chris: So now, with the Scavenger, Steve G gives us yet another outsider, who grows up knowing that his unfeeling makes him different, and so he rejects himself because of it – no wonder he is ready to bargain with Thog.  It’s an interesting contrast with Man-Thing, who, as we know, is all-feeling with no awareness, no appreciation of who he is or how his existence differs from others.  


It’s a brilliant, bitter moment of irony toward the end, as Klonus (who literally dropped from the sky – for with Steve G, all things are possible) releases a black sludge that has clouded Ted’s thinking, so that he suddenly has a (somewhat) clear perception that something is wrong (eg: a metal shaft shouldn’t pass thru him without causing serious harm; his heart should be beating; he should know who these people are, and what he’s doing here), followed by mounting panic (burning fear!) as he’s unable to establish even a vague understanding of what could possibly have happened to him. 
I’d like to assume we’ll learn next issue how Klonus’ release of a portion of Ted’s consciousness ties into the emergence of Thog – but, knowing Steve, who could say what we might find out -!
I don’t find Mooney’s art to be as solid as it had been in previous issues.  Did he have to picture Thog almost exactly the same as he has depicted Satan in other mags – couldn’t we have a few variations on the theme, Jim?  There also are a few ordinary-looking pages of fairly typical human activity going on, but I will lend special attention to Mr Roland Duhl’s shadowy face (above), the Scavenger’s gleeful HCl bath (right), and of course the suitably grisly Rose for Emily moment on p 22, last panel.
Matthew: At first I thought it odd that Gerber would ask the musical question, “Who—or what—is Thog?”  After all, hasn’t Big Red (“He’s big big big and he’s red red red,” as Professor Flynn would say) been around ever since Steve’s first issue, Fear #11?  But then I realized that these are the perils of  Monday-morning quarterbacking, because he was initially identified only as the Nether-Spawn.  As this penultimate issue shows, the Thogster is the common denominator among many of our disparate plot threads, and Steve is clearly convening the larger supporting cast, e.g., Klonus and Mortak, for the finale.  Mooney seems especially adept at capturing the strip’s strong emotions, and if his Manny is less outré than some, his humans are more relatable.






Marvel Premiere 24
Iron Fist in
“Summerkill”
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Pat Broderick and Vinnie Colletta
Colors by Phil Rache
Letters by Karen Mantlo
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

Colleen Wing and Danny Rand spar, Wing taunting him when she senses that he is holding back. After Rand pins Colleen, he storms off, complaining that a man would never fight a woman in K’un-Lun. At S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Fenris Station, a group of terrorists led by a man named Hassan steal the robotic monstroid Ballox, the key to helping their master gain the throne of Halwan. Wandering through Central Park, Danny becomes involved in the first annual Sheep Meadow Softball Championship between Lieutenant Rafael Scarfe’s NYPD team and the Marvel Comics bullpen. Princess Azir of Halwan is also in attendance, watching from the stands. Suddenly, Ballox attacks, targeting the princess. Iron Fist manages to blind the monstroid’s left optical sensor but it rages on, destroying a police cruiser. After blinding the huge android’s other eye, the Living Weapon channels his Iron Fist power and smashes its head to pieces — unknowingly watched from a distance by Hassan’s mysterious master. -Thomas Flynn



Tom Flynn: Boy, Marvel writers sure liked to get their mugs in the pages of the books they handled in the later months of 1975 — see next month’s The Man-Thing for the ultimate demonstration. Claremont is the captain of the Marvel softball team, getting a few panels of face time. Not that I could recognize them all, but the rest of the team is made up of Len and Glynis Wein, Marv Wolfman, Tony Isabella, Irene Vartanoff, Herb Trimpe, Mark Hanerfeld, Bill Mantlo, Mike Kaluta and Al Milgrom. I originally thought one of them was Roy Thomas, but I heard he couldn’t hit the curve. It looks like Marie Severin was called in to draw the faces of the Marvel characters. While he wasn’t named in the issue, Master Khan makes his Iron Fist debut — he will become Rand’s longtime nemesis. Ballox, aka The Monstroid, a Skrull robot, made his first appearance in Marvel Team-Up #5. Iron Fist makes this one his last. Marvel Premiere will go monthly starting next issue which also marks Iron Fist’s last of the series. Pat Broderick’s art is fine if a bit clumsy. We’ll get a major and most welcomed upgrade in October.

Matthew:  A small correction if I may, Professor Flynn.  As I pointed out in June, Khan received his Iron Fist premiere courtesy of--wait for it--Tony Isabella back in #22, although according to the MCDb, the character was actually created by Ditko way back in Strange Tales #77 (October 1960).


Chris: It’s a ponderous stre-e-e-e-tch that the divine Princess Azir would stop in Central Park to take-in an NYPD vs Marvel Comics softball game.  So, Chris really couldn’t think of a way to put Iron Fist and the Princess in the same place, so that he could come to her rescue -?  Still, I will give credit to Chris for finding a way for Iron Fist to combat something that happens not to be a specialist in martial arts.  


Some hints of Broderick’s mature style are evident, most notably in the two-page interlude (p 10-11), but otherwise, Colletta’s inks don’t do well for him.  The Understatement of the Year can be found on the letters page, as our armadillo looks ahead to the next issue, and announces that “John Byrne is a relatively new artist to the Marvel bullpen . . . our latest artistic acquisition is gonna go a long way in the field of contemporary pictorial literature.”
Matthew: Next issue will be the first for Byrne (“once you see his palatable pencils we’re sure you’ll agree with us when we try [sic] our latest artistic acquisition is gonna go a long way in the field of contemporary pictorial literature”; hey, they may be onto something!), and the last for Danny, but only because the latter is getting his own book.  Amazingly, Vinnie slightly raises Pat’s game, and speaking of games, Marie Severin provided the caricatures of the Bullpen team, which—per the lettercol in Iron Fist #2—included Isabella, Trimpe, Mantlo, Wolfman, Milgrom, the Weins, and Claremont.  Chris plucks Skrull scout Ballox from his well-deserved obscurity in MTU #5, planting new seeds with the debut of Azir and the first allusion to Halwan.

Addendum:  Lest I be accused of "me-tooism" regarding the Marvel team, the Monstroid's debut, and the Byrne quote, let me remind those outside the faculty that although positioned last herein by our august Dean Enfantino, my comments were written many moons before the others. 


Marvel Team-Up 37
Spider-Man and Man-Wolf in
"Snow Death!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Karen Mantlo
Cover by Ed Hannigan and John Romita

While battling Spidey and the Monster, Man-Wolf sees and grabs Judith, crashes through a window with her, and protects his “mate” from a pack of real wolves, leaving her alone when she mimes hunger.  Once more, Spidey is felled from behind by the Baron, finds himself bound beside “Frankie,” hears von Shtupf’s plan, and effects their escape, this time from a Batman-style deathtrap, before the Baron is webbed up and bursts into tears.  Spidey finds and is fighting Man-Wolf when the pack, having regrouped, again threatens Judith, who fled while Man-Wolf sought food for her; both race to her rescue, and Spidey saves the wounded Man-Wolf from a fatal plunge, then tactlessly discusses “creatures” with Judith as the Monster slips away… -Matthew Bradley




Matthew: On his way out the door, Gerry would appear to have done a 180 with Man-Wolf, bringing him from Spidey foe to co-star (with a footnote informing us that the Baron’s teleportation device conveniently extricated him from his predicament in the unresolved cliffhanger of Creatures on the Loose #37). Yet it’s a pretty nominal “team-up” since, from Spidey’s perspective, M-W is more foe than friend; if his relationship—for lack of a better word—with Judith seems out of character, I guess we have to cut Conway some slack as his co-creator.  Sal and Vinnie are in there punching, but the lachrymose von Shtupf is too broad to be any kind of real threat, and Spidey’s attitude is another debit, vacillating between fear of what Judith may do to John Jameson and vice versa.

Joe Tura: Now this is a cover I remember well from my long-gone collection, and of course it has the Romita touch. Inside, in a book I read at least a half dozen times, we have my beloved Sal B. in fine form, juggling a furshlugginer cast of zany characters that seemingly only belong together in a meet-up of Mego meets Universal action figures. Von Shtupf's Mel Brooks-ian name and Goldfinger torture rip-off is wacky enough to hold the interest no matter how Dr. Evil-esque his plan is (yes, I'm Frankenstein-ing my pop culture references haha) and his whiny capture certainly brings the chuckles. The Man-Wolf tamed (sorta) by Agent Klemmer is both touching and terrifying since M-W is at his most bestial it would appear, probably annoyed he was pulled from the moon. The ending with Frankie slouching away, which always made me feel sorry for the big lug, would probably remind Prof. Flynn of the end of most Incredible Hulk episodes. Cue the tinkling piano!

Chris: My first thought was that this issue involves a major continuity breakdown X2, since both the Monster and the Man-Wolf are supposed to be somewhere else this month.  Of course, I realize that all stories in the Marvel Universe do not take place concurrently, so I can be flexible, to an extent; we’re told in a footnote late in the issue that Man-Wolf is here because he had been teleported away from the craft we had seen him riding toward the moon at the conclusion of CotL #37, which serves as a pretty clear indicator that the Kraft/Perez storyline in that title is officially finished (I’ll have to remember, once Man-Wolf resurfaces in Marvel Premiere, whether there’s any mention of his having abruptly disappeared at any point).  


Well, in any event, it’s a pretty disjointed story.  If pitiful cliché Von Shtupf requires Man-Wolf to build his perfect beast, then shouldn’t he be a little concerned that this key element just crashed away thru a window?  And, maybe next time VS plans to take over the world, he will be more judicious in his timing of naps.  Pinky and the Brain have a better shot of bringing their plans to fruition.  And – what’s with all of the Jack London stuff with Man-Wolf?  Did Gerry wedge him into the story simply so he could observe him in his natural environment?
Very clever letter from Rook J (yes, he says his name is “Rook” – he has a sister named “Knight” and a kid brother named “Pawn” . . .) suggesting that Marvel change MTU’s title to “Marvel Fight-Out then Team-Up,” due to the exhausting prevalence of MARMIS.  Steady Sal continues to be the only Marvel artist whose work is capable of consistently withstanding the Colletta effect – in fact, I’ll say that the art overall was quite good.  





Master of Kung Fu 32
"Assault on an Angry Sea!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Karen Mantlo
Cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

Sir Denis has a new assignment for Shang-Chi and Black Jack: they are to travel via cruise liner from Marseille (their present location) to London, so that they can provide protection for a British agent who is conveying valuable documents on the ship.  Sir Denis states that the identity of the agent is unknown to them; they are simply to remain on ship, and keep their eyes open.  The ship captain registers his dislike for privileged people securing last-minute passage, when other travelers could be denied passage as a result.  Shang-Chi assists a blind woman, and later invites her to join them at dinner; she introduces herself as Therese Beswick.  The evening meal is disrupted by the sound of screaming from the deck.  Shang-Chi rushes out to save a man from being cast overboard; the man swears he is not the secret British agent.  In the commotion, Therese appears to have been abducted.  An all-night search of the ship fails to produce any sign of her whereabouts.  Sir Denis begins to suspect the captain, but when Shang-Chi proceeds to the bridge, he is attacked; once he successfully reaches his goal, S-C finds that the captain has been killed.  Meanwhile, the man who had been attacked earlier is beset again, this time in his cabin.  S-C arrives, and finds that among this group of marauders is – Therese.  Once everyone is rounded up, Sir Denis reveals that the travelling agent is, in fact, himself, and that the purpose of the exercise was to flush out enemy agents. -Chris Blake
"...or she might be just a blind girl, or..."
Chris: It’s not bad for a fill-in issue.  I’m only calling it that because Gulacy is home, icing his drawing hand, and because this is a one-shot story.  Doug continues to poke around for other non-Fu assignments for the SDNSIEFB (that is, the Sir Denis Nayland-Smith International Espionage-Foiling Brigade), so that means we have to try out an idea like this.  Ordinarily, to find this much unexpected excitement on a cruise, you’d have to go with the Carnival line! (ba-dum-bum)
In a way, I’m grateful that Doug was able to wrap this up in one issue, since all the twisting around (who’s an agent, who’s a spy, who’s on our side, what are the documents, etc) was beginning to make my eyes goggle; it’s enough to verge on parody.  In the end, I liked the fact that Doug kept Sir Denis’ role a secret; in a way, it makes sense that the whole mission was nothing but a honey pot. 
Sal does his usual capable job.  Esposito’s inks make Sal’s art look more like Ron Wilson had been the penciller; it reminds me of the art Wilson provided for one of the stories in Giant-Size MoKF #1.  It could be because Sal only did “breakdowns,” meaning that Espo provided a significant portion of the finished art.  Well, it’s okay, but really no better than ordinary.  Ice-time’s over, Gulacy – back to work.
Mark: No Gulacy. Groan. "Busito's" meat 'n' potatoes professionalism leaves one craving Paul's $100 a pound Kobe beef, but ya still gotta eat. 

Doug Moench serves up a Spy vs. Spy seagoing shell game, as Shang-Chi, Sir Dennis, and Black Jack set sail to protect an unknown courier, carrying important documents. Is it the blind blonde girl? The haughty aristocrat with Van Dyke beard and FDR cigarette holder? Perhaps the rude, pudgy Captain, or others unknown?

What we do know is various hit teams are in the game, assaulting passengers on the fog-bound deck and tearing up the dining room. The S.S. McGuffin sails into a storm (natch), S-C kicks assassin squad tail, the blonde isn't blind and wields (fake) Captain-slaying daggers, but is no match for stoic Shang, who rescues her after she goes in the drink after taking on our hero.

The final con man card flip reveals Sir D as the courier, the documents as worthless, and the pleasures here (it sure ain't the art) are in the telling of the tale, not its nothing-up-the-sleeve non-substance.   







The Mighty Thor 239
"Time Quake!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

Ulik has overthrown Geirrodur as king of the trolls and plans conquest of the surface for his next move. Instead, Thor sends him down the underground  river for parts unknown. Using the latter's spear to set the river aflame holds the other trolls at bay, and Thor and Jane return to the surface after he and Hercules close up the hole. Orrin, meanwhile, witnesses a stunning event near San Diego: a giant pyramid sprouting from the Earth's surface! He is hypnotized by it and climbs its outer staircase where an entrance appears. From it venture three beings who are the exact likeness of the Egyptian gods Horus, Osiris and Isis. They return inside, Orrin following, and the entrance vanishes! Jane and Don Blake's rest is short, as Thor's spirit feels the plight of his missing father. Unaware of what has happened,  he sets out to search for answers. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: Moving right along,  we get out of the troll kingdom and face a new pantheon of gods. I seem to recall the Egyptian storyline as a good one; I'll have to see if it pans out. Ulik's defeat must be the easiest on record, and Thor's abandoning Geirrodur seems a little uncharacteristic of even an enemy.  The new improved Jane seems destined to boredom but I believe she has another shot at action soon. Orrin's trance may be due to his own lack of identity awareness, but Herc's offer of attention is entirely in character.



Matthew: As a lad, I occasionally copied Marvel characters with Caran d’Ache colored pencils on small sheets of white cardboard used to separate X-ray film (Dad was a radiologist); the larger size became my infamous “who wrote which issues” charts.  I think I was even foolhardy enough to attempt some of these drawings in the car on our seemingly interminable trips to the family outpost in Vermont, and even if they don’t survive for posterity—perhaps just as well—I vividly remember this cover shot of Thor being among them.  Roy kicks off the trilogy that fills the void between Gerry’s and Len’s lengthy runs on the book, although other commitments quickly force him to pass the torch to Mantlo, while Joltin’ Joe gets to ink another Buscema, to stunning effect.

Scott: A rather “cold” end for Ulik, if this indeed is his end. Probably not. Just as the Odin/Orrin story was getting interesting…it took a turn into cheese. The final few pages are a letdown, to be honest. Thor goes off to Asgard and Jane sees Odin on TV. Oh the irony that is fate. Too bad Jane doesn’t have a hot line to Asgard or a Thor Signal or something. 


Chris: I’m always a bit wary when the carry-over from the previous issue is concluded early in the present issue.  So, now what – does Thor have to go with Jane to pick out new paper for the kitchen cabinets, or something?  Thankfully, we get some real progress on the Odin storyline (after months in a holding pattern), with some mystery for good measure; any readers who might’ve predicted that Egyptian gods might be showing up in southern California, seemingly seeking Odin, should be short-listed for an MU scholarship.  



On the letters page, the lengthy account of rotating-writers mentions that Sal’s pencils are good enough to be mistaken for Big John’s.  I’m not sure how Sal might have felt to hear that, but in fact, thanks to sterling inking, Sal’s pencils do come off incredibly well.  Once again, Joe Sinnott serves as Mr Continuity; whether the pencils are by a Buscema, a Buckler, or even a Jones, you can count on the finished product looking its stellar best.  








The Tomb of Dracula 36
"Flight of Fear!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Rachel Van Helsing, Inspector Chelms, and Quincy Harker sit in an office with Doctor Scott, listening to taped interviews of people who had encounters with Dracula.  In one interview, a man relates how Dracula went ballistic, at the airport, once his flight to Boston was delayed by three hours due to bad weather.   Dracula uncharacteristically loses his temper and kills people in public.  This shows the vampire hunters that he is growing weak and desperate in his attempt to track down and locate Dr. Sun.  The next interview involves a test pilot who was kidnapped by the Count and ordered to fly him to America.  Drac almost gets caught by awaiting military personnel when they land in Boston.  When Rachel and Quincy leave the office to make plans to travel to Boston, it is revealed that Dr. Scott is working for Dr. Sun as he calls him to inform him of the recent events.  During this time, Frank Drake tracks down his old friend Danny Summers, who set him up to be killed by zombies.   Danny Summers confesses, but claims he had no choice, since Dracula threatened him with death.  Drake spares him any further physical harm, but is informed by Brother Voodoo that they still have work to do before they leave Brazil.
-Tom McMillion



Tom McMillion:  The tension for the upcoming Dracula versus Dr. Sun showdown gets taken up a few notches as we see Drac starting to crack under the pressure.  The folks at Marvel knew what they were doing, instead of rushing things, easing us into what will hopefully become a memorable clash between evils.  I'm a little tired of Frank Drake and his misadventures though.

Chris: The next time I book a trans-Atlantic flight, I’m going to wear my best black cape, so that if there happen to be any flight delays, I’ll be prepared to look the part in case I decide to lift someone by his shirt and shout that I don’t ask for excuses – I demand solutions!  If that doesn’t work, I’ll throw people around – maybe thru a window, if necessary.  Last resort is that I’ll hijack a fighter jet and fly to my destination in half the time – I wasn’t going to watch the in-flight Reese Witherspoon-Kevin James movie anyway.  


The framing for the flashbacks is a useful idea, especially as it allows the self-important Dr Scott (of the Antarctic -?) to point out that Dracula’s actions seemingly aren’t in character for him, and that he sounds desperate at times – so, it might be true that his powers could be on the wane, and Drac himself could be more vulnerable to attack.  This observation carries even more weight at the very end, when we discover that Dr Scott in is the employ of Dr Sun; does Dr Sun hope to enlist Quincy & Co to finish off Dracula for him?  
The art is at its best during the fighter-jet sequence, as we observe moments of tension and determination on the face of Captain Greenely, as he struggles to maintain control over his unique predicament.  Plenty of nice close-ups of Drac, particularly moments when Palmer makes use of the cockpit lighting to make the Count appear even more un-worldly (such as p 15, and also the small greenish head-shot on p 18, right).
Mark: Transylvanian travelogue: the losing-his-power Dark Lord is just another harried air traveler, his London to Boston itinerary upset by power blackouts and poor jet maintenance. His ticket counter freak-out has a higher body/bullet count than most. Vlad stows away on a military jet, resulting in escape-your-own-missiles-aerial-aerobatics before the Count finally hits Beantown, in search of Dr. Sun.

All this Quincy & crew learn from cassette tape testimony, cued up by a pipe puffing shrink in (last panel reveal!) Sun's service. More shocking, Frank Drake's plotline doesn't flatline, as he serves a knuckle sandwich to his betrayer Danny and learns his "friend" was in thrall to a certain undead aristocrat.  

Colan & Palmer's ghoulish graphics, as always, raise the blood pressure in five crypt fashion, and Wolfman's plot/prose is right on howl at the moon target.  







Werewolf by Night 33
"Wolf-Beast vs. Moon Knight"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin and Howie Perlin
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Debra James
Cover by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson

Second Night: Moon Knight is carrying Werewolf off on the chopper's rope ladder when Eddie wings him in the shoulder. Exit stage right to Northrup grilling Mr. Stroat in Haiti for info on Raymond Coker—and getting the heave-ho—while Coker himself recounts to Jessala of "de Thousand Years" the story of his aunt and uncle getting killed by a zuvembie of his great-grandfather Papa Jaranda, and she gives him the name of Jericho Drumm for help. Back to our hero, who awakens as the chopper nears its destination and knocks Moon Knight off the ladder. The two plunge into the water and end up in a frenetic fight, but just as Werewolf gains the upper claw, dawn breaks and he transforms to Jack, getting a boot in the kisser for good measure. Quick cut to Buck in the hospital, who might be paralyzed if he ever emerges from the coma, then to the evil lair of The Committee, where Moon Knight delivers Jack, Lissa and Topaz. As they wait for the full moon to see if the caged Jack turns, much name-calling ensues, then MK earns his dough with the rise of the moon and the onset of Third Night. Then, MK suddenly shifts gears and bends the bars, helping Werewolf escape! As the two kick some Committee coolie, MK nabs the leader and lets Werewolf slash his chubby hide, then he escapes, leaving his hairy adversary to head towards the L.A. fog. – Joe Tura

Matthew: Jericho Drumm? What is this, Brother Voodoo Resurgence Month?



Joe: "The Supernatural Slug-Fest You Dare Not Miss!" exclaims the front cover of this month's creature feature. And while I'm not sure it's all that, overall another pretty fine issue of a book that's growing on me like hair on a werewolf's back during first night. Oh my, I can't believe I just admitted that….Anyways, the Moon Knight character starts to gain his chops, setting up a smidge more back story including the anti-hero status he'll start to wear so well. But what of our supporting cast? Everyone seems to be in the crapper or close to it, from Coker's hiatus in Haiti to bed-ridden Buck, with Jack at the epicenter of it all. A hairy-knuckled, silver-gloved brawl on pages 10-16 is the highlight of this issue, and even though the action isn't super-kinetic, it's still fun in a Perlinesque kind of way. And the amount of insults hurled at the Committee members and their portly prez by Moon Knight, Jack and the Jack/Werewolf voiceover is comically verbose, including "your flabby heart", "slimy slugs", "lard-butts", "two-ton leader", "gabardine", "lard-butt number one", "blubber-guts" and my favorite, "chubs-a-flub". Although the narration on the first panel of the final page takes the fattening frosted cake: "Fatso hit the floor like rubberized Jello, and when the quivering stopped…it was just the two of us. I growled, softly…" I guess Doug had a fat kid nemesis back in his school days?



Dean Mullaney of Staten Island, NY, the future publisher of Eclipse Enterprises and future Eisner Award winner for his comic strip archiving, writes in "Weremail by Night" that he believes WBN has gone from "one of the worst to one of the very best books around." Wow…I mean it's much better than it was, but there had to be some damn good hallucinogens available in the mid-70s, no? And, the "Closing Notes" tells us Doug Moench's sweetheart Debra James debuts as a letterer here (she's ok at best), and nepotism is alive and kicking.

Chris: Now I'm doubly convinced that Doug should’ve held off on the Haiti-reporting until now, instead of interrupting the fight scene last issue. The skewed image of Papa Jaranda dragging Banita’s parents’ bodies out the door, as she helplessly reaches out for them, is a ghouly highlight (p 7 pnl 1).

It's easy to say that we knew all along that Moon Knight would redeem himself, but I have to say it's not a given.  MK wrestles pretty fiercely with the Werewolf (hey – the guy’s a real pro), and it's obvious that he's now permanently cut himself off from future assignments when he decides to oh-so- seriously screw-over the Committee.  It might be an even bigger gamble on MK’s part when he expects to convince the Werewolf that they now should fight on the same side, especially after the silver-studded, crescent-piercing tarring MK had given the Wolf earlier.





Jungle Action 17
The Black Panther in
"Of Shadows and Rages"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Billy Graham and Virgilio Redondo
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by Charlotte Jetter 
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

After months of planning, Killmonger and his forces, aided by captive dinosaurs, begin their assault on Central Wakanda.  T’Challa plunges headlong into the fray, and rescues Monica from danger.  The Panther probably is not aware that the attackers had plowed thru a cemetery on their way to the capital; 9 yr-old Kantu thinks of this as he runs to safety, and reflects on his father’s death at the order of Erik Killmonger.  Brachiosaurs push their massive bulks thru the walls of the Wakandan palace, which not only collapses T’Challa’s seat of power, but also serves to free Killmonger allies who had been imprisoned within the keep.  Venomm stands to one side, as T’Challa subdues Karnaj and Macabre.  Cadaver unleashes a psychic attack on Taku, but before he can disable Taku’s mind, Venomm lashes Cadaver aside, directly into the oncoming path of a brachiosaur foot.  Before Malice can impose vengeance on Venomm, Monica takes her out.   T’Challa’s adversary is satisfied with the progress of the incursion, as he shouts a challenge to the prince: they should meet at a site of one of their past face-offs, Warrior Falls, in single combat.  The Panther arrives at the top of the racing torrent, and prepares for a “blood battle between these two;” Kantu, a third figure, observes from close by.  The Panther bears up under a series of deep slashes from Killmonger’s spiked belt (“another uniform torn and bloodied,” is T’Challa’s grim humor), and thinks he has gained the upper hand, as once more Killmonger bears T’Challa aloft, vowing to break his back and watch him die.  Kantu sprints forward, screaming his rage for all he’s worth; he barrels into an unprepared Killmonger, who plunges off the top of the Falls.  T’Challa and Kantu face each other, and turn wordlessly toward the sun, whose warmth they feel for the first time that day.  -Chris Blake



Chris: Well – how about that.  Over the course of twelve issues, Don McGregor has taken a sometime-Avenger who had always been little more than a supporting character, and built for us an entirely new understanding of his strength of character.  When T’Challa reflects to himself, and declares aloud to Killmonger, about his rediscovered ability to “look upon those shadows,” both real and imagined, it’s a statement born of experience, following all the trials he has survived during “a year of irreparable loss.”  I don’t know whether Don had planned all along for Kantu to avenge his father; he’s certainly made an effort to keep this character in circulation, so that his pivotal role doesn’t come from beyond left field.  
Billy Graham has been indispensable in this process.  Not many artists could have stepped in to replace Rich Buckler, and maintained the vigorous style that Rich established from the outset.  We’ve seen Graham present two-page spreads and series of small panels to depict action; he offers both here, most notably on p 16-17 (above), with little flashes captured along the top row.  We also observe a specific sequence of events (W’Kabi struggling up from his hospital bed to pull his family together).  Pages 22-23 (below) feature particularly unique framing, as you have to follow T’Challa’s progress from the bottom of p22, along the curve to the top of p23, then to the center-right of p22, and finally to the bulk of p23 as the battle is joined.  Page 30 gives us one last appreciation of Killmonger’s physical presence.  Graham’s final page includes a silhouette of T’Challa in his Panther mask, upside down, which reflects his compromised position of a moment ago (while Killmonger was holding him up), but probably also illustrates how the Killmonger rebellion took T’Challa’s world, and turned it in a new and thoroughly unexpected, uncomfortable direction. 



Matthew: My biggest challenge in critiquing the 12th and final chapter of “Panther’s Rage” is to try to find something positive that I haven’t already said about the 11 prior chapters, especially now that the early creative turnover has given way to the stability of the justly celebrated McGraham team, which will last almost until the book’s cancellation.  To get my sole negative out of the way, I think this time Don’s fondness for rumination came at the expense of narrative clarity, because I found the climactic battle so fast and full of characters that it was difficult to grasp who was doing what to whom.  But as endings of epics go, it was an otherwise satisfying conclusion, especially the irony of having Kantu effect Killmonger’s (literal) downfall.






Marvel Two-In-One 11
The Thing and The Golem in
"The Thing Goes South!"
Story by Roy Thomas and Bill Mantlo
Art by Bob Brown and Jack Abel
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott

 Ben is shunned by the passengers of the train he delayed for a vacation with Alicia in Florida, where at San Pedro University, Jason Adamson posits that his murdered Uncle Abraham’s love for Jason; his sister, Rebecca; and her fiancé, Wayne Logan, animates the Golem.  Hearing this, Kaballa sends his demons to separate them so he can take control, and a radio report of the tidal wall cutting the school off from the rest of St. Petersburg leads Ben to debark unexpectedly.  He fares badly against the demon-guided statue until the Golem sends explanatory images into his mind, and the “bridge” of debris that Ben builds to the university reconnects the Golem to the trio, whereupon the demons vanish and Kaballa beats a hasty retreat. 





No longer needed, the Golem stops moving, and Wayne notes that “with all the reconstruction on the city, it’s going to be a long while before we can get together the equipment to bring him back to the campus.”  Speaking from years of bitter experience, Ben disputes Jason’s suggestion that the presence of this “new statue” may make people reconsider their idea of what constitutes a monster, while the narrator tells us that “the letters of truth do not blaze on the inert Golem’s brow…but it seems to Ben Grimm that there is a momentary flicker of understanding in the stone-being’s eyes…and for a little while, the man known as the Thing feels a little less…alone.”  That’s all she wrote for the Golem, a rare character with no post-Bronze afterlife. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: In a Professor Matthew Time Paradox, I read this just days after proofing the faculty’s coverage of the Golem’s swan song in Strange Tales #177, so their précis came in rather handy, although neither these writers (newbie Mantlo scripting Roy’s plot) nor artists (Abel inking Brown’s pencils) were associated with his micro-series.  I have three problems with the opening sequence:  it’s a virtual replay of the one in Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4; it puts Ben in an artificially self-pitying mood, just to set up his empathy for the Golem; and it consumes way too many pages with so much else on the agenda, leaving non-Golem readers literally at sea.  The art is frankly a mess, as Abel buries Brown’s style almost completely, and the Thing looks intermittently awful.





Also This Month


Arrgh! #5 (Final Issue)

Chamber of Chills #18
Crypt of Shadows #19
FOOM #11
Giant-Size Conan the Barbarian #5 (all-reprint) >
The Human Torch #7
Kid Colt Outlaw #198
Marvel's Greatest Comics #58
Marvel Spectacular #17
Marvel Super-Heroes #52
Marvel Tales #61
Marvel Triple Action #25
Masters of Terror #2
Mighty Marvel Western #41
Monsters of the Movies #8
Monsters Unleashed Summer Special #1
My Love #36
Rawhide Kid #128
Sgt Fury #128
Spidey Super Stories #12
Tales of the Zombie Summer Special #1
Tomb of Darkness #16
Vault of Evil #21
Western Gunfighters #31
Where Monsters Dwell #37


Roy Thomas and Gil Kane’s “Hour of the Dragon” adaptation in the pages of Giant-Size Conan the Barbarian is abandoned for the all-reprint final issue — no worries, things will be wrapped up in The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian issues 8 and 10. What we have here is both Conan the Barbarian 14 (March 1972) and 15 (May 1972), offering the two-part tale of the Cimmerian’s encounter with Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone. So, a bit of a treat for those who missed it the first time out. We also have “The Blood of the Dragon,” a short back-up story from Conan the Barbarian 12 (December 1971). This was nothing special the first time around. There is a Kirby cover inked by John Sinnott with “alterations” by John Romita: unless I’m forgetting something, this is the first time that The King drew Conan. -Thomas Flynn




THOSE MARVEL-OUS MAGAZINES





The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 16
Cover by Luis Dominguez

"Demons in Painted Death"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Rudy Nebres

"The Corpse Rider"
Story by John Warner
Art by Sanho Kim

"The Rites of Every Citizen"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by George Perez and Stan Gan

In Part Four of the epic "Golden Dragon" saga, Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu teams up with (color title) ally Black Jack Tarr in an effort to find the valuable "Golden Dragon" statue before the bad guys do. Problem is, Shang-Chi can't figure out who the bad guys are and which side he's actually fighting on: Black Jack is revealed to be a demon working for Cho Lee (supposedly murdered by Shadow-Thief a few chapters ago); former ally Shareen turns rogue, vying for the big jackpot herself; and Melissa, put-upon girlfriend of art dealer (and general bad guy) Lionel Stern is, in reality, an agent of Sir Denis. It's no wonder the Master of Kung Fu has no time to sort out friend from foe and lets his fists do the collating. In the end, Cho Lee makes off with the elusive Golden Dragon... or has he? The faux Black Jack transforms into the separated-at-birth twin of Ghost Rider and Cho Lee could very well be Stephen Strange's long lost sibling as well but, otherwise, Rudy Nebres' art is getting much better on this series (last installment, you may recall, was near indecipherable) and that's a major bonus this time around because the story is getting pretty darn confusing. Remind me again why everyone wants this little statue? I think the problem with these multi-part epics (and this one will come in somewhere around the 120-page mark when all is said and done) is that it gives the writer an excuse to laze. As with "The War That Shook the World," the goliath we've been discussing over in Supernatural Thrillers, "Golden Dragon" feels front- and back-loaded with a whole lot of dead time in the middle. I'm hoping for a humdinger of a climax in #18 but expect the wheels to maintain their spinning next issue.

"Demons in Painted Death"


Samurai Matsuura Kazehana is making his way to Kyoto when he comes across a young samurai attacking a defenseless old man. He steps between the two and the story unfurls: the young samurai is Takezo and the elder is his ex-wife's manservant, sent to give word to Takezo that his ex has died. It is claimed that the woman will rise from the grave to seek vengeance on her ex-husband for smearing her good name. The only way to survive the night, Takezo learns, is to straddle the corpse's back and hold on for the ride should the dead walk. Incredibly enough, that night, the woman rises and tries unsuccessfully to buck her old beau. When ninjas in the service of the woman's father come to slay Takezo, she rips them to pieces. Takezo manages to last the night as "The Corpse Rider" and, come the next morning, his wife's spirit is finally at rest. A complete change of pace for this title, "The Corpse Rider" would have fit in well in the pages of Monsters Unleashed (and it may just have been prepared for such a placement before MU went belly-up a few months before), a tale that seamlessly combines ancient traditions and superstitions with modern day gore and violence. Sanho Kim (who illustrated the excellent "Beauty's Vengeance" for Monsters Unleashed #10) was primarily known for his Charlton work and was assigned to the Kung Fu title, House of Yang, at the same time "The Corpse Rider" was published. Kim also worked for Warren and Skywald.

"The Corpse Rider"


The Sons (and one daughter) of the Tiger are approached by Alexander "Blackbyrd" Byrd, an old friend of Abe's, to investigate a report of inmate abuse at an upstate prison. The group go undercover in the prison (disguised as a traveling martial arts troupe -- surprise!) and discover the abuse is far more serious than anyone imagined. When the warden and his men realize that the Sons are part of a federal investigation, they threaten to murder each and every inmate if word gets out but our heroes are able to disarm the uniformed thugs and the inmates turn the tables on their captors. The warden escapes but manages to call in the National Guard and the walls come tumbling down. Ah, Bill Mantlo. The angry young white man in 1975 America. While everyone else is getting down tonight to KC and the Sunshine Band, Bill's pissed because he wasn't old enough to protest in the 60s. It's not the message I find offensive (who could?) -- African-Americans beaten on by prison guards simply because of the color of their skin -- it's the smug and officious way in which it's being delivered. Why does every black man in Mantlo's script talk like Superfly? Why is Abe, the token black in the Tigers, constantly losing his temper and foaming at the mouth? "The Rites of Every Citizen" starts out annoying and becomes downright laughable by the time the warden and his crew reveal that they're actually blood-lusting psychopaths. I found Bill Mantlo's message was delivered so much better a few years before in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. If the staff at MU voted on Worst Story of the Year, this crap would get my nod. -Peter Enfantino

"The Rites of Every Citizen"






Planet of the Apes 12
Cover by Ken Barr

"City of Nomads"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Tom Sutton

"Upward to the Earth"
Escape From the Planet of the Apes Chapter 1
Adaptation by Doug Moench
Art by Rico Rival

An awesome cover by Ken Barr (cover artist of a ton of B&W mags) kicks off the end of Apes' first year, and the start of the adaptation of the third POTA film, the most jovial of the five, yet also the most heartbreaking. But first, our mighty Dean goes bananas as Tom Sutton hits the Bristol board for our fill-in story, "City of Nomads".

An "other city" POTA tale that has A Fistful of Dollars and Ben-Hur to thank for the basic plot that rambles at times and reeks of Moench-isms, it begins with the assassination-by-arrow-from-the-shadows of New Hydromeda's orangutan leader. Then Magistrate Argol and the slimy Sage plan to fortify the borders against the rebels. New Hydromeda is actually a city on a ship, divided between two factions, with "Demolition Row" in the middle… and nowhere to escape. Barbarus, leader of the gorilla rebels, and his first lieutenant Swarthos [really, Doug?] plot to arm themselves against the orangutans as they wait for their water reservoirs to fill. Meanwhile, the slinker in the shadows makes his way past the chimp guards and kills Commander Dymaxius with an arrow bolt, and the orangutans blame the rebels. The gorillas find their water poisoned and their supplies dumped overboard, and of course blame their adversaries. War begins, with cannons firing, and the slinker empties oil onto New Hydromeda's mast, and then torches it! Next he enters the bowels of the ship, filled with human oarsmen. Alaric, the slinker, leads the humans to fight for their freedom, besting Barbarus as the gorilla city burns, and the humans escape on lifeboats.

Well, not a bad little tale, with excellent moody art by Sutton and a politically charged script by Moench, a combo that makes for a nice, if not odd, fill-in while we wait for Mike Ploog to get crackin' on his "Terror" pencils. You can honestly skip the Jim Whitmore interview with Paula Crist and William Blake, a stuntwoman and makeup maven who performed as "Zira" and "Cornelius" at sci-fi conventions, and later appeared in the Battle film. I mean, it's ok, but gimme more comic stuff, willya!

"Escape"


We end on the first part of Escape, blasting off with a spaceship taking flight as the actual planet explodes from the bomb set off at the end of Beneath. A trio of astronauts go from the year 3955 back to 1975, splashing down much to the chagrin of the confused military. The rescue effort gets to the ship, opens the hatch, and discovers the astronauts are apes! The three chimpanzees dress themselves with clothes from a suitcase they packed, then are caged next to a gorilla, where Milo tells Zira and Cornelius they went backward in time and should lay low since this timeline's apes can't speak. Meanwhile Dr. Lewis Dixon and Dr. Stephanie Branton show up to test the apes, where Zira passes with flying colors. But when they wonder why the chimps won't eat any bananas, Zira shockingly says they "loathe and detest bananas", which shocks the humans!

A decent start to what was always an enjoyable film (that probably wouldn't hold up today), with nice art by Rico Rival and an OK adaptation by Moench that's of course heavy on the dialogue. Looks like the art will carry most of this one. –Joe Tura











The Legion of Monsters 1
Cover by Neal Adams

"The Monster and the Masque"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Val Mayerik, Dan Adkins, and Pablo Marcos

"Vengeance Crude"
Story by Marv Wolfman and Tony Isabella
Art by Dave Cockrum and Sam Grainger

"The Flies!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Paul Kirschner and Ralph Reese

"Dracula Chapter VII:
Death Be Thou Proud!"
Adaptation by Roy Thomas
Art by Dick Giordano

The Frankenstein Monster follows a girl dressed as a princess to a costume ball. Able to mingle among the pretty people, the monster swiftly makes friends and develops a taste for alcohol. After a dance with Princess Cynthia, the monster is approached by a jester who claims Cynthia will be murdered at the ball and that the monster should keep an eye on a man dressed as a knight. Our monstrous hero soon realizes that the greatest threat to Cynthia comes from the jester himself and arrives too late to save the girl. Pinning the murder on the monster, the jester attempts to escape but is hunted down and brutally brought to justice. Here's a chapter in the Monster of Frankenstein series that has no ties to either the color title or the saga that was unfolding in the pages of Monsters Unleashed. On the surface, it's a minor distraction and a pleasant read, but it's got some major problems. Chief among them, of course, is the writing of Doug "Never Met an Analogy I Didn't Use" Moench, whose prose both sets my teeth to gnashing and keeps my stomach sore from guffawing. Take this bit from the opening page:

A slithering crawl of murky squalor sucking at soot-grimy filth... A tingle makes him turn. The ghost of a silent rustle... or maybe a gooseflesh breeze beyond his window of filth... an ephemeral glow, incongruous, anachronistic, splashing through his mind's sight like the color of dawn etched on a blind man's eye.




Oh, man, Dougie, I've missed you and your uncanny knack of using the word "filth" as a verb, adjective, and noun all at the same time. Past the prose, the story's got a few holes as well: What was the jester's plan? How was he going to murder Cynthia and escape before the bright idea of pinning it all on the monster occurred to him? Who are these people who inhabit the ball? Who owns the house? How does the monster seemingly stumble into these situations and how is it he remains free to wander? No answers will be forthcoming, I'm afraid, since this will be pretty much the last you'll see of The Monster of Frankenstein aside from guest star turns in Tomb of Dracula and, inexplicably, Iron Man.

A giant amphibious creature (dubbed "The Manphibian") rises from an oil rig to wreak havoc but its actions are purely revenge-fueled. Years before, the monster's mate was viciously murdered by a member of his own race. Now, that killer has also risen from the oil fields and is cutting a bloody swath across the country. Obviously, the Marvel powers-that-be took a look at their monster roster and then another look at the Universal monsters and noticed one they hadn't made "their own" yet: The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Unlike the other classic monsters (werewolf, Dracula, Frankenstein), the Lagoon Creature was an original creation of Universal's and therefore a registered trademark. Not as cheap and easy to "pay homage" to a licensed critter so they did what any good businessman does: "adapt". There's no telling, from "Vengeance Crude" just how far a series starring The Manphibian could have gone but it's pretty safe to say... not far. How many series starring monsters that wander the world, searching for that special something (all the while stumbling onto crazy situations and crazier characters) do we need? After all, the only series to do it right was Swamp Thing and Wein and Wrightson had the good sense to hang up their muddy galoshes before the "rinse and repeat" cycle began. We'll never know since this was the one and only chapter in the "Manphibian" saga outside of a rebooting for a Sgt Fury series three decades later.

Gerry Conway's "The Flies" is yet another variation on the "outcast picked on by society who gets his 
revenge in the end" yawner, this one featuring Chuckles, a "freak" who loves flies and the town folk who torture the poor man. When one of the nasty kids goes missing, the police find him at Chuckles' shack, his arms ripped off and replaced by wings. A ludicrous climax to a cliched and boring tale. After a six-month hiatus, Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano finally pop up with another chapter of their epic adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. After a whopping five-page recounting of previous chapters, the boys finally advance the story a bit with the introduction of Dr. Van Helsing and Dracula's dominance over Lucy Westenra. All in all, a very entertaining piece of work. A pity we'd have to wait three decades to read the remaining chapters.



Don and Maggie Thompson, future editors of Comic Buyer's Guide, debut "The Legion Report," yet another variation on Famous Monsters of Filmland's movie news. The only standout bits are the first mention of Spielberg's Jaws and the announcement that Marvel would soon be tackling an adaptation of Leslie Whitten's classic vampire novel, Progeny of the Adder (a project I assume never got past the planning stage). The Thompsons are much better writers than Carla Joseph but "The Legion Report" is still nothing more than wasted space. A second issue of Legion of Monsters was announced in the back pages of the debut (promoting new stories featuring Morbius and Satana, along with Chapter eight of Dracula) but that sophomore effort never materialized.
-Peter Enfantino



Marvel Preview 3
Cover by Gray Morrow

"The Night Josie Harper Died!"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Tony DeZuniga and Rico Rival

Sharpen your stakes and fill up your vials of holy water for a four-part, book-length epic starring the vaunted vampire-slayer named Blade! "The Night Josie Harper Died" is a "blood-chilling chronicle" from up-and-comer Chris Claremont and black-and-white mag mavens Tony DeZuniga and Rico Rival. Grey Morrow's MAD Magazine-esque cover (really, just check out Blade's odd facial expression and hunched/menacing pose) kicks us off, then we get to London in the spring of '75, where Blade halts a vampire attack, meets a man who's been dead for seven months, then argues with the Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard to the point of fisticuffs. Next, the Legion of the Damned's vamp Vierken nabs Blade's woman Safron, and sultry Marguerite goes to the jazz club Blade frequents to let him know. Ambushed by the Legion, Blade fights the fangers in the fog and hurls a wooden knife at Vierken…but strikes a young human girl!



In Chapter Two, "Trail of Blood, Trail of Tears", the girl, Josie Harper, dies in Blade's arms and he flees before the cops arrive. CI Dai Thomas is fairly pissed, and asks for Inspector Fraser. Blade is on the lam, going home to his friend Slow Boy and reporter Mickey, where he gets info on Marguerite's whereabouts. At her Mayfair mansion, Blade sneaks in and vanquishes a vamp, then we cut to the scene of the crime and psychic Inspector Kate Fraser "sees" Blade is being framed by the Legion. Overhearing this, constable Thomas Lawson, also a vampire wanker, spills the beans to Marguerite and Vierken, with Blade overhearing. Fraser visits Ponce's club and has to take out a vampire before the Legion overtakes her!

Rico Rival takes over the art for Chapter Three, "Dawn of Blood", which has Blade coming to Fraser's rescue. They battle their way out and onto the Underground, with the vamps in cold-blooded pursuit! After another electrifying battle (literally), Blade and Fraser make their way to the surface and back to the safety of Slow Boy's where, the next morning, Blade recounts the "origin" of his hatred for vampires to Fraser. The odd couple head to Mayfair in upper crust disguise, but Blade is discovered, which leads to a quick donnybrook and then they discover the missing Safron. But they're too late, the Legion has already made her a vampire!



The final chapter, "Hellmorn!" starts with Blade's shock at Safron's transformation, especially since he saved her from Ponce then fell in love. But Fraser stops him and rips down the drapes—and the sunlight does nothing to Safron! Turns out she's not dead yet, so transfusions might save Blade's lady love…but they spend too long looking at evidence, night falls and the Legion strikes! The vamps make off with Safron, leaving Blade and Fraser to speed away but their car crashes and Fraser is kidnapped and brought back to the Legion's HQ. Marguerite threatens the good Inspector while Blade sneaks into the castle, finding the "sunlight serum" and samples, and is setting a bomb when Vierken finds him! The enemies battle hand-to-hand until Blade manages to nail Vierken with a lance just as the bomb goes off! The castle is in flames, but before Blade can finish off Marguerite, Fraser stops him, saying she has evidence that Blade is innocent of Josie Harper's murder, then the voice of Dracula insists Blade has won a battle, but not their ongoing war!



Whew…that's a lot of vampires, like a season's worth of Buffy, all in one looooong story full of twists and turns and cliffhangers at the end of every chapter. Blade fans, of course, will rejoice, while Blade novices such as myself find it to be merely OK. The character himself borders on unlikeable, but he's certainly supremely motivated and quite talented. I like Fraser much better, although she almost seems too tough, like I can't help but think a punch from a vampire should do a little more damage to her. Claremont does a fine job on the words, while Rival's art outshines DeZuniga's slightly. We end on "A Short Picto-History of Blade" that gives us a Reader's Digest version of Blade's "career" thus far, complete with a list of his prior appearances. Now pardon me as I retire to my coffin for the sleep of the damned…. –Joe Tura


Nope, not even close!





Kull and the Barbarians 3
September 1975
Cover by Michael Whelan

“The Omen in the Skull”
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Vicente Alcazar

“The Trail of Solomon Kane”
Text by Fred Blosser

“The Day of the Sword”
Story by Roy Thomas & Doug Moench
Art by Howard Chaykin

“Into the Silent City”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Alan Weiss & Pablo Marcos

After only three issues, Kull and the Barbarians joins numerous other magazines that Marvel dumped on the black-and-white scrapheap in late 1975. Not that we should be surprised. It seemed doomed from the start as the inaugural issue included nothing more than reprints. And Kull’s own color comic wasn’t popular enough to last that long —though it will start up again in August of 1976. The Kull and Solomon Kane stories featured here continue from #2 while the Red Sonja tale stands alone, offering the most detailed account of her origin to date.




In “The Omen in the Skull,” Kull and Ridondo the Minstrel sail away from Brule’s homeland toward Atlantis, hoping to raise an army and return to Valusia to overthrow Thulsa Doom — the Pict chose to stay behind to free his people from the sinister rule of the Hawk Moon tribe. Trying to spear supper, the former king unsheathes his sword and it bursts into flames. When the fire subsides, an ancient, unreadable text is carved into the blade. Kull remembers Brule mentioned that a witch lives on a mist-shrouded island nearby — they head for it, hoping that the crone can translate the message. At the witch’s hut, she reveals that the text tells of how a barbarian king will emerge from Atlantis to conquer the Thurian civilization. Emboldened, Kull continues his journey to the island of his birth: the old woman transforms into a beautiful young girl when he leaves. When they arrive on Atlantis, Kull and Ridondo are drawn into the eyes of a giant, flaming skull, transported to a hell-like dimension. There, they are approached by Brule, Ka-Nu, Tu and others: the former friends suddenly transform into skeletons and attack. The Valusians destroy the creaky creatures and soon hear a woman’s scream in the distance. They approach and see the young version of the witch tied to a flaming post, a huge tiger and snake battling before her. She informs Kull that he represents the tiger, Thulsa Doom the snake: which one wins will decide his fate. When the reptile defeats the cat, the barbarian uses the post to kill Doom’s totem. Kull and Ridondo find themselves back in their true world on Atlantis, standing before a magnificent, sprawling city that didn’t exist when the fallen monarch left just a scant ten years before.


The saga of Kull regaining his crown marches on with this 25 page installment — things will continue in the pages of The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #9. I was quite impressed by the art of Vicente Alcazar but Doug Moench continues the habit of tossing his characters into other weird dimensions. Well, at least Morbius in Fear. I understand that you are going to encounter a bit of mumbo jumbo with sword and sorcery stories but I always get the feeling that Moench is trying to ape Jim Starlin. Few can pull that off, Dougie. I also point my finger at you Tony Isabella.

Kull and the Barbarians #3 also includes 17 pages about Robert E. Howard’s Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane. The always reliable Fred Blosser pens the 4-page article “The Trail of Solomon Kane,” an excellent discussion of the dark hero’s literary history, basically revealing that Howard abandoned the character after his success with Conan. At 13 pages, “Into the Silent City” continues from issue #2, as Kane and Zunna camp down for the night after killing two of the vampires plaguing this region of Africa. The Puritan dreams of his friend, the fetish-man N’Longa, who tells Solomon to make Zunna fetch her lover Kran and have the man lie down with the voodoo staff. When this happens, N’Longa possesses Kran’s muscular body and they head out to find the vampire’s crumbling city in the mountains. As N’Longa performs an incantation, the undead creatures attack and overwhelm Kane, biting, slicing and sucking at his skin. But the fetish-man finally finishes his spell and the sky is filled with vultures: the scavengers attack the vampires’ dead flesh. When the bloodsuckers flee to their ruined city, N’Longa tosses a flaming torch and the vampires, as well as their haunted home, are burned out of existence.


"Solomon Kane"


While I have never read one of Howard’s Solomon Kane stories, it is easy to see that he is much more interesting than the dull Kull. He cuts a dashing figure with an array of deadly weapons. In “Into the Silent City,” the Puritan is torn by the use of the dark arts to defeat the vampires. But when in Rome I guess. The panels of Solomon battling the undead are pretty hair-raising. And props to Howard for using vultures to defeat vampires. Never came across that one before. I’ll bump into Kane as MU time goes on in the pages of The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian — looking much more forward to those stories than the revived Kull the Destroyer.

"Red Sonja"
Lastly, there’s “The Day of the Sword,” which can be considered the first fully formed origin story of Red Sonja. Roy Thomas plotted the tale and Moench is back for the script. Howard Chaykin, Sonja’s signature artist at this point, offers up some excellent art, sexy, fierce, and foreboding all at the same time. At 13-pages, it’s short and fairly basic but somewhat noteworthy. Red Sonja is riding through the Nemedian forest of Darkwood when she comes across three bandits torturing a man. After she kills the thieves, the Hyrkanian hell-cat is shocked to realize that their victim is the mercenary responsible for slaughtering her father, mother, and two brothers five years ago, raping her afterwards. Barely surviving the ordeal, the battered Sonja had a vision of an androgynous, god-like being. The ethereal figure offered her the power to be the equal of any man or women if she never allowed herself to feel love for a man unless he defeated her in fair battle. Red Sonja accepts. Her memories passed, Sonja notices that the mercenary has completely lost his mind during the torture. The red-haired beauty laughs, for revenge is no longer necessary. 

So there we have it. Three issues, one filled with reprints. Barely a pebble in the path of the mighty Marvel University machine. See ya in the funny pages Kull and the Barbarians. Or not. 
-Thomas Flynn


In William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel The Exorcist, a “Mosul curator of antiquities,” upon inspecting an “amulet [with] a green stone head of the demon Pazuzu [whose] owner had worn it as a shield,” concludes about the objet d’art, “Evil against evil.”  Solomon Kane comes to the same conclusion here when, after wrestling with his Christian conscience about wielding the “cat-headed Voodoo stave of unguessable antiquity,” he reckons that “Demonry must be fought with demonry, mayhap.”  Or the Solomonic versus the demonic.  


“The startling conclusion of REH’s ‘The Hills of the Dead’” is 13 rousing pages instead of last issue’s 10, and in this one, “the hills are giving up their dead!”  Kane’s martial prayer rises: “God of hosts-- grant me aid--!  How may I prevail against the hundreds that haunt these hills?  How?”  This is a mostly bloodless story…but only because “the vampires have no blood in them!”  Otherwise there is plenty of skull-shattering, clubbing, flesh-shattering, bone-smashing, and flesh-burning to satisfy Walking Dead viewers as Kane and his Solomonic staff take on a “whole nation of” clambering “walking dead men…surging forward, ever forward…!” with “keen talons tear[ing and] flaccid lips suck[ing].”  



Yet in the end it is the carrion birds who save the day and drive the wailing hordes back to the city of the undead.  There they are silenced by fetish-man N’Longa who chars them with a magic meteor of bundled dry leaves (because “only fire will destroy them!”).  


In this issue’s “The Trail of Solomon Kane” essay, Fred Blosser explains the long staff’s origin as an ancient artifact from “‘many millions of years ago’ when ‘strange pre-Adamite priests’ walked the earth [and i]n Biblical times [was] used by…King Solomon of Israel, to battle demons of the Outer Spheres.” 


This phenomenal Blosser biographical sketch of Robert E. Howard’s “roving Puritan” deserves inclusion in any Kane collection.  It provides a detailed overview of his wanderings from England to continental Europe to Africa and the New World and back, “from notes and gleanings by Glenn Lord.”  (Inserted into this chronology is “Kane’s graphic-story encounter in that mountainous land with a certain Undead count [in] Marvel’s Dracula Lives #3.”)  


Moving beyond the chronicle, the best part is the case Blosser makes for Kane as “Robert E. Howard’s first hero of sword-and-sorcery” before the later Kull who generally wears that crown in pulp annals, a claim gently suggested by Roy Thomas last issue.  Beginning in 1928 with “Red Shadows,” Howard “took the decisive step toward that mixture of swashbuckling action and supernatural horror.”  During Howard’s life, Kane appeared “in seven narratives in Weird Tales from 1928 to 1932 [with] stories [that] possess many of the virtues of Howard’s later swords-and-sorcery masterpieces.”  Before Conan came along, Kane was “the first of Howard’s great series heroes.”  Blosser maintains that “Solomon Kane, even more than Conan or King Kull, is the archetypal hero.” 


After Conan, however, “Howard dropped Kane, leaving unfinished at least four tales featuring Solomon.”  Then, “[a]fter his creator’s death, Solomon Kane became almost the ‘forgotten man’ of Howard’s fantasy fiction.”  For decades after, not all of Howard’s original manuscripts were available, and a few unpublished ones (like “Death’s Black Riders”) were only just becoming gradually available from such places as the fanzine REH: Lone Star Fictioneer.  The “NOTES:” section of Blosser’s “Informal History” also lists a “variation of ‘Blades of the Brotherhood’…[r]ewritten as ‘The Blue Flame of Vengeance,’ by John Pocsik” (published in the Arkham House anthology Over the Edge, with the addition of “a warlock and a changeling” instead of Howard’s original “straight pirate adventure”!). 


Eventually, “in 1968…fantasy publisher Donald M. Grant produced the first full collection of Kane stories, Red Shadows,” but a more complete three-volume series (1969-1971) from Centaur Press (The Moon of Skulls, The Hand of Kane, and Solomon Kane) followed.  “The saga in toto contains nine complete stories, four fragments, and three poems,” but still more was to come.  In 2004, most if not all of the Kane material would surface in its original manuscript form, including untouched fragments, from Del Rey when that imprint collected them in what may well be the final word on the subject, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane


Marvel’s Kane adaptations were reprinted by Dark Horse in 2009 under the title The Saga of Solomon Kane, along with Blosser’s “The Trail of Solomon Kane: An Informal Biography” and another “literary biography” (from Savage Sword of Conan #219) called “Kane ... the Avenger: The Life and Times of Solomon Kane.”  Blosser’s REH credentials, incidentally, extend beyond the comic realm.  In the 1980s, he completed the Kane fragment “Death’s Black Riders” and a hardboiled pulp fragment “The Mystery of Tannernoe Lodge.”  In other words, the man knows whereof he speaks.  
—Professor Gilbert, P.M.P.


Professor Gilbert has so much more to say that he'll be back on Sunday for a special discussion of Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #5. Class is dismissed until then.