Mike Friedrich in 1972
By Matthew R. Bradley
The name of “Mischievous Mike” Friedrich is not nearly so often invoked as that of his Bronze-Age colleague Steve Englehart, who came to prominence around the same time; they later collaborated on one of the latter’s signal achievements, the Secret Empire saga, when Friedrich lent a hand on Captain America #169-172 while Englehart was relocating to California. If his name is mentioned at all, it is sometimes—with all due respect to our distinguished Dean Enfantino—confused with that of his (unrelated) fellow Bullpenner, Gary Friedrich. Yet Mike, who’d had several years of experience for DC under his belt when he made his Marvel debut with the back-up story from Monsters on the Prowl #10 (April 1971), had a significant impact on the House of Ideas in several ways, as we shall see when we join him in 1972, during which he started working exclusively for Marvel.
May: Marvel had a bewildering number of Native American characters called Red Wolf; Friedrich’s Red Wolf #1 initiated the solo title for Johnny Wakeley, introduced in Marvel Spotlight #1 (November 1971) and not to be confused with William Talltrees of Avengers fame. Worse, by the time Friedrich returned to script #9, Wakeley had been supplanted by his great-grandson, Thomas Thunderhead. Another “famous first” for Friedrich was [Adventure into] Fear #20 (February 1974), the debut of the first four-color solo strip for Morbius, the Living Vampire, concurrent with his black-and-white run in Vampire Tales.
June: Like many a Bronzeman, Friedrich paid his dues in Westerns as well as monsters, and began a seven-issue run with Outlaw Kid #10 (returning for another three in 1975).
July: Mike suddenly explodes onto the super-hero scene with three books, including Sub-Mariner #51 (his first of four issues over the course of that year). Love him or hate him, Ant-Man was a founding member of the Avengers and, in one manifestation or another, a Marvel mainstay for decades, so Friedrich’s seven-issue revival of his solo strip—starting with Marvel Feature #4—should not be dismissed, especially as it contains some of the earliest artwork by P. Craig Russell. Post-Ant-Man, Friedrich also wrote the final issue, Marvel Feature #12 (November 1973), one of two that were penciled by Jim Starlin and initiated the Thing’s team-up strip, which immediately morphed into Marvel Two-in-One.
By far the month’s most notable credit was Iron Man #48, the first in a largely unbroken run of 34 issues, penciled almost exclusively by George Tuska in the midst of his decade-long stint on the book. In #55 (February 1973), Friedrich and his then-roommate, Starlin, were teamed up on the low-selling series and, famously feeling they had nothing to lose, introduced some characters Starlin had already been developing, e.g., Thanos and Drax the Destroyer. Stan Lee had him bounced from the book after an offbeat issue with Steve Gerber, but Roy Thomas thought Starlin had promise and put him on another low-seller, Captain Marvel, where Friedrich helped him to evolve into the writer-artist he became.
October: I was fascinated when I learned that before Starlin worked his cosmic magic uponthem, Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock had both been significantly revamped from their original conceptions by the dream team of Roy and Gil Kane. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that they had something else in common, namely a piece of connective tissue known as Mike Friedrich. Effective with [The Power of] Warlock #2, he succeeded Roy, who had kicked off Adam’s solo strip in Marvel Premiere #1 (April 1972), and wrote all but one of the six remaining issues of the book’s initial incarnation.
December: Second only to Friedrich’s tenure on Iron Man was his contribution to Ka-Zar’s strip, which he took over in Astonishing Tales #15 and finished off its twenty-issue run in that book. Friedrich then seamlessly made the transition to the jungle lord’s solo title with Ka-Zar #1 (January 1974) before turning the reins over to Gerry Conway in #6.
Later credits included one-offs featuring Dr. Strange (Marvel Premiere #12, November 1973) and the Son of Satan (Marvel Spotlight #23, August 1975); a 1974 four-pack of Werewolf by Night (#16-19); two appearances of the Golem in Strange Tales (#176-77) before Starlin’s Warlock revival took over; and even an issue of the venerable Fantastic Four (#177, December 1976), but clearly, 1972 was where it all started to come together.