Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 1972 Part Two: Warlock Goes Wild!

Adventure Into Fear 10
Man-Thing in
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Howard Chaykin and Gray Morrow

"The Spell of the Sea-Witch!"
Story by Allyn Brodsky
Art by Jay Hawk (Jack Katz) and Wild Bill (Bill Everett)

A truck stops atop a bridge on a dark night, and proceeds to toss a baby over into the water below! What he doesn’t see, is the creature who catches the falling child—the Man-Thing. Once known to the world as Ted Sallis, who had created a serum that could turn it’s consumer into a super-soldier. Until his girlfriend, and some accomplices, betrayed him to steal the serum for themselves. He had managed to escape, driving off a bridge after taking the dose himself. Sadly it created a monster instead. He drops the baby at the doorstep of Margaret and Warren Thompson, who recognize the baby. His mother is Billie-Jo, his father Hank, the latter hating the baby for complicating his life. When the Man-Thing tracks them down, he senses the fear in Hank, and thus his touch burns the man’s face. Ironically, this incident brings them to a better understanding of each other.
-Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: A nice refresher on the Man-Thing’s origin in a decent tale. I guess the serum that Steve Rogers took was a little better than the one Ted Sallis developed. I can’t help but feel sorry for the Man-Thing, feared in a Hulk-like manner, but without any companionship. The two accompanying tales, “The Spell Of The Sea-Witch!” (pirate-ghosts and all), and “There Is Something Strange About Mister Jones!” (a criminal who finds, to his eternal dismay, Davy Jones locker) fill out this issue.

Matthew Bradley: Gerry Conway and inker Gray Morrow, who created Man-Thing with Roy in Savage Tales #1-and-so-far-only, now team with penciler Howard Chaykin to launch his first solo series, after his four-color debut in Astonishing Tales #12-13.  Allotted 10 pages, it shares space with one of the reprints (from Tales of Suspense #17, May 1961) that previously filled this book, plus an apparently new shorty by Allyn Brodsky, “Jay Hawk” (Jack Katz), and “Black Bill” (Everett), both negligible.  There is no attempt within this atmospherically drawn little morality play—and even part of that is devoted to a brief recap of Manny’s origin—to provide him with any supporting characters or establish any continuity, which is fine, because all of that will come with a vengeance next issue.

Joe Tura: I actually owned this one as a kid, and I'm really not sure why, because the Man-Thing was never exactly my cup of sludge. The cover is cool though, which might explain it. Or maybe it was one of the famous "root canal" comics, where my Dad bought me a bunch of comics after I had a root canal at 6 years old the summer of '73. Or maybe it was me foreshadowing the future coolness of Howard Chaykin, that he showed in some mags like American Flagg!, Blackhawk and Black Kiss. Well, if sex and violence can be considered cool. But either way, I only remember the cover to be honest, not the insides. I do believe this was the only M-T book I had.

Peter Enfantino: It's just a fragment, a vignette drawn around the premise, "What if the Man-Thing caught a baby thrown from a bridge?" The art by Chaykin (in his Marvel debut) and Morrow (losing a bit of atmosphere now that he's working with color) more than makes up for the lack of any story but I'd like to know why the toddler isn't frying in the hands of Manny. You gonna tell me the kid wasn't afraid of this giant walking turnip? The filler, two really bad ghost stories, would have had me writing nasty letters to the Marvel office demanding 20-page Man-Thing tales for my hard-earned dimes.

Scott McIntyre: That first page is incredibly spooky and one of the best intros to a Man-Thing story I can recall. Manny catching the baby and holding it that way is chilling. A perfect start. The art doesn't really hold up after that, sadly. With the right inks, Gray Morrow's work can be realistic and outstanding, but here, it's not quite right. Mike Ploog is the artist I usually connect with the character, but I'm in a good mood, so I'll go with it for now. The tale is short and serves as an introduction to the character for those who needed one. It re-establishes his burning touch, but I still await the first use of "whatever knows fear, burns at the Man-Thing's touch!" A nice, quick start.

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire 3
"Mark of the Mace!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by George Tuska and Billy Graham

As the police come in to clean up the mess from his last adventure, Luke Cage learns that Dr. Burnstein  isn't going to turn him in to the police for being an escaped convict.  After he goes back to his office, Cage is visited by a man named D.W., a former Vietnam veteran.  Disgruntled with the lack of jobs for returning vets, he joined up with a group of anarchists led by a former Colonel named Gideon Mace, who has an actual medieval type of weapon in place of one hand.  D.W. learned that Mace and his military goons are only in it for themselves as they plan on using the veterans to distract the police, during protests, while they rob banks.  Some of Mace's goons follow D.W. To Cage's office.  and kill him. Luke inadvertently kills one of the bad guys and roughs up the other to find where Mace's compound is located.  Cage storms the compound and gets into an all-out brawl with Mace and his men.  While his henchman are easily defeated, Mace is a little harder for Cage to take down given his fighting skills. Once he realizes that he can't beat Cage, the evil Mace takes off in a helicopter. Our Hero For Hire jumps aboard the copter before it flies off and sends it plummeting into the ocean.
-Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: I like Luke Cage because he doesn't have a strong self-righteous streak like a lot of heroes.  Big Luke has no problem taking people's hard-earned cash for doing heroic deeds most super-powered suckers would do for free.  And if a couple of bad guys happen to get killed while he's playing mercenary, he doesn't seem to take it too hard.

Scott: Tuska is back, but partnered with Billy Graham (not the evangelist). Everything was going fine, story and art-wise until page 14, when we see Gideon Mace whose missing hand was replaced by a (wait for it) mace, and then George Tuska's crappy character design takes over. It's a shame, because he taints a perfectly good story (aside from the stupid name conceit). I like the character, though. Cage is good fun without not as much jive talkin' BS as usual for this sort of title.

Peter: Page One to Twenty, this could have been one fabulously freaky four-on-the-floor action-filled blaxploitation flick from the 70s or my name ain't Sweet Petah Jetah! How did American-International miss the boat and not sew up rights to a Hero For Hire starring Fred Williamson as Luke and Joe Don Baker as Mace (with cameos by Teresa Graves as Dr. Claire Temple and Ray Milland as the shifty Dr. Noah Burstein)? It's lucky that Colonel Mace (the man who chose "this weapon to replace my missing hand solely because it bears my name") wasn't born Gideon Socket Wrench or Gideon Catapult. Never underestimate the strength of a good surname in the Marvel Universe. Kudos to Billy Graham for somehow smoothing out George Tuska's rough edges. You can still see George busting through in spots but, at the very least, his human characters look a little less simian.

The Incredible Hulk 156
"Holocaust at the Heart of the Atom!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Herb Trimpe and Sal Trapani

After his last adventure in a micro-universe, the Hulk has shrunken into Jarella's world. The spell that gave the Hulk the mind of Bruce Banner takes effect once again. The Hulk comes upon Jarella's village, now completely destroyed. A sorcerer aligned with Jarella informs the Hulk that it was the work of the evil Visis. Jarella is forced to marry Visis when he shows the girl her subjects being tortured. Just before they tie the knot though, the Hulk, along with Jarella's army, busts in to free her. Visis and his men are able to escape and he makes an alliance with a mercenary who has a secret weapon to use against the Hulkster---a machine that causes the target's greatest fear to manifest itself into a living object. When the Hulk is hit by the machine's rays, Hulk/Banner sees his greatest fear come to life: the savage Hulk. The Hulk with Banner's mind is no match for the nightmare Hulk and he gets beaten pretty bad. Before the doppelganger can throw Hulk from a cliff, Jarella orders her sorceres to take away the spell. With the Hulk back to having his own savage mind, the nightmare Hulk dissappears. Feeling that he was betrayed by the mercenary, Visis stabs him with a knife. As all this is going on, Hank Pym's particles start to wear off and the Hulk starts growing back to normal size. As he grows, the Hulkster crushes Visis's castle with him and his minions in it. The story ends with the green monster leaving the micro world, returning to his normal size. -Tom McMillion

Tom: Good stuff all around. I'm not a big fan of stories taking place in Jarella's world but this was interesting. A decent slobberknocker between the two Hulks even though it was a bit one-sided.

Scott: This story featured in the last Marvel Super Heroes reprint issue I bought before it was cancelled a month later. I always considered it the last issue, but I later learned there was one more (#105). For that alone, it stands out. Even without that, this is a great issue. I always felt the series should have gone in this direction; Hulk on Jarella's world, building an empire while trying to ensure the freedom and happiness of his people. It would have been more interesting than keeping him in the main Marvel Universe so he could meet and battle other heroes. Without Betty, T-Bolt and the less than stellar rogue's gallery, this could have been a really fun way to go. It wasn't until Planet Hulk decades later that the idea would take root but Jarella would be long gone from the title by then.

Matthew: As I recall, Sal Trapani was one of Trimpe’s consistently best inkers on this book; he here begins his 11-issue run, overlapping the start of Englehart’s imminent tenure, so the stars are truly falling into alignment.  Suddenly, this is the Hulk—and Herbie—the way I remember him, as different from that Severin-inked green gorilla as night and day, which helps offset the fact that with all due respect to Goodwin, I really don’t care for Jarella stories (although this one admittedly has a clever twist).  As an incurable romantic, I hate that they only ever end one way, and this is the third time ol’ Jade-Jaws, whether Banner-brained or otherwise, has been cruelly tempted with happiness, only to have it snatched away...but it won’t be the last.

Peter: With dialogue such as "It's not a bird, or a plane ---- or the finale of an old MGM Tarzan flick." a reader could be excused for mistaking this for a Roy Thomas production but, aside from the silly pop references, this is solid Hulk. Once again, I find myself in complete agreement with Professor Matthew: Sal Trapani completes the Hulk I remember from my youth, big teeth and all. If these Jarella stories all have to follow a pattern (and, out of necessity, they do), at least Archie finds a clever way to extinguish the (blink and you'll miss him) faux Hulk before sending him back into the void. Time for some
"Hulk on Big Earth" stories, I says. Oh, and Betty Ross Banner wins the "Let's Not Wait 'til the Corpse is Cold" award of the month for proposing marriage to Talbot approximately seven minutes after Bruce goes missing.

Scott: It took issues to get here, so they could at least have made it a multi-part epic. Instead, it's one and done, packing in as much action and adventure as possible. In fact, there's enough here to fill a full two issues. The story suffers from its brevity. The art is wonderful and Sal Trapani is one of the most effective inkers for Trimpe. This begins a solid run, for the art, that will continue for a while. A great issue, much fun and very nice to look at. Banner's a bit chatty, but he's having a blast, which is great. A shame he walks hand and hand with tragedy.

The Invincible Iron Man 51
"Now Stalks the Cyborg-Sinister!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta

Iron Man copes with continued boot-jet malfunctions, the debris of a rocket that explodes on takeoff from S.I.’s private launching pad—jeopardizing his switch to more peaceful research—and an attempted hardware-store heist.  While the Cyborg-Sinister invades the R&D department to tap its energy for Bast, Tony breaks his engagement and responds to the crisis, depositing the blindly fleeing Marianne in a supply storage area.  But he has placed her above the corrosive chemicals that are both the cyborg’s target and the locus of her vision, which is proven a dream as Iron Man’s boot-jets enable him to overturn the vat on the cyborg; an altercation with Tyrr destroys Jarr’s computer, ending the cyborg’s threat, and a satellite is successfully launched. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: As divisive as Tuska is, and as much as I loathe Colletta in other contexts, I do think the Friedrich/Tuska/Colletta team is well suited to this book...which is fortunate, since we’ll be seeing it several more times over the next 30 issues, despite some extended Vinnie-free gaps.  As noted, it was probably at least a decade before I saw this conclusion to last issue’s pyrotechnics, so some letdown is perhaps inevitable, but my quarrels are relatively minor.  Introduced by Gary “No Relation” Friedrich in #45, the Rodgers/Stark engagement has barely outlasted the Page/Murdock fiasco (for all I know, Melancholy Mike was looking for an escape hatch when he came on board), and the Bast plotline ends without really being properly explained or developed.

Scott: On the top of page 3, some schmuck is watching the rocket debris fall toward them while screaming "we're doomed! We're doomed!" Someone was watching too much Lost in Space. The dialog doesn't get much better with IM calling the petty crooks "rats." I pictured Jimmy Cagney providing the voice. Meanwhile, scientists on a micro world send a Cyborg to Earth. Why do I feel that any planet with the technology to detect and make sense of something as large as Earth and can make a mechanical man grow that much in size doesn't need help in solving their planet's problems. They can't send a simple run of the mill cyborg, either. No, it has to be a Cyborg-Sinister. After this, we're treated to Tony the Douche no longer having any patience for his girl friend because he's perfect and never lets anyone down. After all this, the Cyborg SINISTER! is defeated by his own creators. Bor-ing! This was one hell of an unpleasant read. Next.

Peter: Iron Man #51 turns out to be a lesson for Dean Peter: either stay on the horse or drink in the saloon, or some metaphor as purple as the dialogue Mike Friedrich spits out this issue: "It's like a weekend of sleep-shattering nightmares!" and "You're a long way from those hang-loose days in Phoenix, kid -- long and lonely!" How about "Is this that 'destiny' you like to call your own?" Or my favorite of the issue: "Marriane has 'seen' this moment before -- it's an apex point of dread --penultimate to death! Helplessly she rushes, hopelessly she grasps, her heart sinking in a bog of pre-destined doom!" Since I haven't read the last umpteen issues, I was completely bewildered by the various plot lines, but some things never change: Tony Stark has a habit of falling for troubled women; Iron Man faces the worst villains in comics; Tony Stark can't bed normal women; and George Tuska needs a real good inker to convince me he should have been a professional artist. But I'll crack open #52 when it comes along because, as God is my witness, the early bird is worth two in a bush.

Marvel Spotlight 6
The Ghost Rider in
"Angels From Hell!"
Story by Gary Friedrich
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Chiaramonte

A motorcycle gang on the prowl is excited to find a rider out at night, alone.  They aren’t prepared to look upon the flaming visage of Ghost Rider.  The gang scatters, except for their leader, Curly, who invites the rider to join the crew.  Once at their crash pad, Curly hypnotizes Ghost Rider, requires him to tell his tale (a mostly-faithful retelling events disclosed in MS #5), then wills him to sleep.  Curly summons his dark master, and Satan reveals Curly to be Johnny Blaze’s deceased surrogate father, Crash Simpson.  Crash can return to life if he will assist Satan to claim Johnny’s soul.  Johnny has been safeguarded by the love of Crash’s daughter Roxanne.  Satan finds that Roxanne’s influence still is too strong – she also must be dealt with, for Satan to claim his prize. Johnny transforms back to himself at dawn, and returns to his hotel, troubled by unclear recollections from the night before.  Roxanne accosts Johnny and begs to know if something is wrong.  Johnny can’t bring himself to relate the truth of the Ghost Rider curse to her.  Johnny sleeps through the day, waking after nightfall as the transformation begins.  Curly appears at the hotel to alert Ghost Rider to the fact that the gang has determined to abduct Roxanne.  Ghost Rider arrives at Madison Square Garden, and must free her from the cyclehoods’ clutches.  Once Roxanne is saved and they are backstage, she reveals that she recognizes that the Rider is Johnny.  Ghost Rider decides that his presence could endanger Roxanne, and he resolves to leave at once.  Curly then arrives at Roxanne’s dressing room, hypnotizes her to sleep, and announces that his daughter’s sacrifice will help him fulfill his bargain with the devil.  –Chris Blake

Chris Blake: Overall, an uneven follow-up to GR’s introduction last issue.  First off, there are several glaring inconsistencies.  When last we saw our cursed Johnny, he had discovered that the police were looking for his alter ego, and he decided to leave town.  This time, Johnny is back in the city and still  connected to the cycle show (it’s almost like a Simpsons reset, as events from last week go unmentioned as a new show begins).  Johnny reflects on the fact that he has to prepare for the afternoon show (he had indicated in our previous ish that show times were moved from evenings to afternoons, due to the regularity of his change to GR every nightfall), then sleeps thru the day, and rushes off to rescue Roxanne – at an evening show.  Also, if Curly wants to get ahold of Roxanne, why would he send GR to the Garden to rescue her from his gang?  Doesn’t that make his task more difficult?  The bits of cycle showmanship don’t make sense – if you’re GR, why would you chase another biker thru a loop-de-loop – shouldn’t it be obvious that he’s going to arrive at the end, and that you could snag him there?  Lastly, we still don’t know if GR has any powers, aside from causing ground fires (Johnny does tell us that the skull is visible due to his flesh becoming “transparent” – I hadn’t heard that before).  Mike Ploog’s art doesn’t do as much for me this time.  I can’t blame it all on Frank Chiaramonte’s inks, either.  The cycle business is fun to look at, but the encounters with Satan don’t seem as menacing as they could be.

Matthew:  After inking his own work on the debuts of Werewolf by Night and GR in Spotlight, Ploog teamed up on both strips with frequent collaborator and fellow Will Eisner vet Frank Chiaramonte (billed here as “Monte”), who later embellished John Byrne on many an Iron Fist.  It’s obviously pretty twisted—and Groovy Gary’s script has the decency to acknowledge this—that the resurrected Crash Simpson is plotting his own daughter’s demise to buy himself a new lease on life; I would have said it was out of character, but I suppose that in his situation, any one of us might do the same.  I’m relieved that Johnny was so quickly spared the necessity of keeping his situation a secret from Rocky, as doing so from the wider world will quite suffice.

Peter: The Crash Simpson character is a fascinating aberration -- this despite the fact that the title hero has a flaming skull atop his shoulders. Did Crash go over to the "dark side" once dead? Wasn't he a pretty stand-up guy while alive? What may have sent him knocking on Satan's door (or vice versa) may be the plot element that keeps this Dean tuning in each issue. Ploog's art, in spots, is really shaky. It's probably a cinch for an artist (other than, say, Franks Robbins or Springer) to come up with a pretty cool Ghost Rider but supporting characters that don't look like Betty,Veronica, and Jughead are a big plus as well. Friedrich's story is all over the place without actually going anywhere, filled with word balloons threatening to pop. I don't get a sense of menace from this character - flaming crown notwithstanding.

Scott: Interesting. Curly Samuels is "turned on" by Ghost Rider's "game" and the Rider is "attracted" to Curly. After that bit of hilarity, we get a pretty solid story, not about the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, but of evil vs another kind of evil. The resurrection of Crash Simpson after making a deal with Satan is pretty awesome. We still have to suffer through a hugely protracted origin story, but otherwise, great stuff. Not bad for a character I never really enjoyed.

Chris: On the plus side, Crash Simpson’s attempt to return from the dead is an interesting twist.  His willingness to trade the lives of his would-be son – and full-blood daughter – to restore his own life, casts Crash’s character in a very different light from the benign presence we’d seen in MS #5.  It will be interesting to see where the story takes us in MS #7 – let’s hope we’re spared another continuity breakdown in the next installment.

Joe: I was a little surprised by the Crash Simpson turn of events. Seemed a bit out of character based on last issue, especially for a Sam Elliott lookalike. But I wasn't that surprised by the OK-ness of this issue. The recap seemed unnecessary, like it was there for the people who might have missed out on buying the last Marvel Spotlight. The rest was just so-so, with hopes of going somewhere a little more exciting.

Sub-Mariner 54
"Comes Now... the Decision!"
Story and Art by Bill Everett

"The Mer-Mutants"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Alan Weiss

Inside the underground bunker of the Dragon-Lord, the Sub-Mariner and Sunfire confront him in battle. The Dragon-Lord is no match for the combined might of the two and he is easily defeated. Sunfire wants to continue his previous battle with Namor, interrupted so the two could defeat Dragon-Lord. Not wanting to fight for unnecessary reasons, Subby flies off to check up on Namorita, who has been getting into mischief. Namor bails her and a young man out of the water just as they were starting to have a romance. -Tom McMillion

In a second story, Namor follows a pretty mermaid only to be attacked by her mutant fish friends. After he defeats them, the mermaid explains that her people are only looking for food and shelter, which they have a hard time getting because they are outcasts. Subby suggests they live in Atlantis with him. They decline after some of Subby's soldiers make bigoted remarks about them. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: The final story, a reprint of "A Lesson in Humility From Namora," visits Namor as a youth, exploring a sunken submarine with Byrrah and another playmate. Namor gets stuck inside a torpedo firing tube. His friends abandon him but luckily his cousin Namora, whom he ditched earlier, shows up to get him out.  I like anthologies so it was nice to read this issue. Of course the quality per story varies but at least it was a fun and easy read.

Matthew:  Not many comics can boast, if that is the word, of having a new story, a fill-in, and a reprint (from Sub-Mariner Comics #39, vintage 1955) all within the confines of a single regulation-size issue, or as the cover spins it, “3 Sub-Sea Sagas—for the Price of One!”  At least Everett gets to wind up his Sunfire/Dragon-Lord arc, and I enjoyed the luxury of those oversized panels, which help to set his work apart from that of many a younger colleague, although Nita’s boy toy looks way too elfin in page 14, panel 2.  Mike Friedrich, who’d familiarized himself with the character by scripting Wild Bill’s plots, stakes out his own surf ’n’ turf with a quickie drawn by Alan Weiss, which is featured on said cover and introduces one-eyed Atlantean creep Lorvex.

Scott: This is a mixed bag. The opening story is a truckload of fun, still very retro, and there are dashes of spritely humor. Such as when Sun Fire smashes into the bridge with a loud "splaat!" Nita is still adorable, but a little on the annoying side, with a little off-putting crush on her own cousin. Why does the sailor she meet look just as much like a Disney character as she does? Will he turn out to be her brother? In Atlantis, that means weddin' bells!

Peter: His art was still jaw-dropping (check out that panel of Sunfire pulling Dragon-Lord from the deluge) but the story-telling skills, sadly, were going the way of the bison. There's not much in the way of a plot here but oh, the eye candy. The image of Betty attempting to tie up Nita's feet wings borders on bondage and the youngster's smack to her captor's face begs for a ring full of mud. A bit of naughtiness injected into a kid's funny book by a veteran of GGA? Sunfire, an honest-to-gosh super-villain, is dispatched when the Sub-Mariner executes a maneuver and his foe flies head first into a bridge? Highlight of the strip, though, has to be when Sunfire informs Dragon-Lord he's dropping him off at a Naval base and then literally drops him hundreds of feet above the base! The filler story isn't too bad and Alan Weiss' art is at least stylish (in a Val Mayerik sorta way).

Scott: The second story is short and, for some reason, gets to be the cover subject. Alan Weiss is one of those weird styled artists (he draws like a girl). His character designs and poses are odd and a little light in the loafers. There is no excitement in his work and his style draws attention to itself. Whatever the story was about, I found it was lost in the crappy art.

The Mighty Thor 204
"Exiled on Earth!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Jim Mooney

The purpose of Ego-Prime, to further the creation of a new race of gods, of which Odin was the mastermind, is now complete. And upon seeing the whole truth, Thor is disgusted. He condemns Odin for not caring about the risks all have endured. The All-Father responds in turn, exiling Thor—and his supportive friends—on Earth until further notice. Heimdall and Kamoor are the exceptions; brought back to Asgard, they see Odin rage as never before. He stands for no defiance. The others, meanwhile, set up camp in the Avengers mansion for now, and set about to make a new life on Earth. Tana Nile takes human form. The Warriors Three (that is with Balder instead of Volstagg) party it up at a local bar. Don Blake finds his office has been closed—he’s been away too long! The voluminous one himself is with his charge, the young girl, hiding out in a dark cellar at her request. Finally he succumbs to sleep. The girl wanders into the shadows…and returns with nameless, hooded monsters that silently carry him away. Shadows soon engulf all our friends in different places. Thor and Sif are the last to go, and they find themselves in a nether-region. They soon see their companions, frozen stiff, and the source of the shadowy kidnappings—Mephisto!! -Jim Barwise

Jim: It’s one thing for Thor to want to stay on Earth as its defender, quite another to have to make a home there. The adaptations he and his friends have to make are a refreshing change from the orchestrated events of late. Perhaps we should have seen something coming from Volstagg’s child friend, but I found it an effective surprise. The shadow kidnappings are well done; only near the end did I suspect Mephisto was behind it (having not read this one in many years). I have to concur—Jim Mooney inks add a welcome look to the artwork.

Scott: Oh man, that scene where Thor and his gang are sitting around bored in Avengers Mansion is hysterical. Otherwise, Odin is a jackass. So what else is new? Since Thor is exiled, he goes around town with Sif as Don Blake. He's come a long way from the beginning. No longer lame, he now has a barely noticeable limp. For a fish out of water story, this isn't too bad. Not great, but I'm thankful for the feeling of rest this issue provides. We end on another cliffhanger, but the setup is okay, so I'm up for a round of Thor vs Mephisto next time.

Matthew:  Mooney gives us another respite from Colletta’s inks, so at least there’s something positive to say about poor Buscema’s art, even if I wish the Madman didn’t lay the shadows on so thickly (obviously except where the story requires them, like the sublime page 14).  So, with a sigh, we begin Thor’s regularly scheduled banishment to Earth, complete with Odin’s hilariously ironic line, “My own son—did call me cruel—and for that shall he dearly pay!”  That’ll prove him wrong, Dad!  Yet there are hopeful signs:  Sif looks great in Wanda’s togs, and it’s nice to see Gerry recognize the fact that Blake’s practice can’t withstand his extended absences; clearly, I’m not gonna grouse over the return of Mephisto, especially with that jaw-dropping final spread.  Nice cover, too.

Peter: While it probably will never scale those heights it achieved only a few short years ago (when it was the best title Marvel was publishing), at least this issue is readable, a label that could not be attached to the last dozen or so numbers. As Matthew notes, Jim Mooney elevates Big John's art back to epic. Thor and co.'s plight on earth kept me interested and Mephisto is very much welcomed by this reader after the bottomless morass known as the Ego-Prime/Mangog/ Ragnarok/Kartag/Pluto arc (aka the Unending Bilge Cycle). Every time Thor turns back into the lame doc in front of Sif, I can just see the beauty questioning if she's doing the right thing. At least Gerry finally answers the age-old question: what if a doctor had an office but never showed up to work? Why do I think there's a giant Marvel Coincidence coming as far as that mysterious Karl Sarron goes.

Warlock 2
"Count-Down For Counter-Earth!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Plot by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema, Tom Sutton, and Gil Kane

Adam battles and devolves Monck back into a gibbon before the Man-Beast calls a truce, using his cape to convey them from his subterranean stronghold to the surface.  His offer of a partnership rejected, the Man-Beast shows Adam as his young friends are abandoned by Astrella on the streets of L.A. and, threatened by a mob for their association with Warlock, deny knowing him.  Enraged by their betrayal, Adam lashes out in a murderous crusade to “purify” the planet—killing Nixon, Brez[h]nev, and Mao, and unleashing nuclear war—but when confronted by Jason, David, Ellie, and Eddie, he cannot bring himself to kill them; with that, the mayhem is exposed as an illusion of the Man-Beast…who dissipates into a mist as Adam rejoins his friends. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Mike Friedrich, who will close out the book’s brief initial run, scripts Roy’s plot, with layouts by Big John (!), finished art by Sutton, and Kane credited as “spiritual advisor.”  I don’t presume to be able to identify exactly what’s what in the Buscema/Sutton/Kane mélange, but this installment continues to justify my love for the character—I mean, how many comic books take time out for a theological debate before the adversaries start bashing each other, or routinely parallel Biblical events like Peter’s denial of Jesus?  While I didn’t remember this issue specifically, I was pretty confident when Adam started wasting large numbers of people that we’d moved into The Last Temptation of Warlock territory here, although it’s fun to see him wreaking his imaginary havoc.

Peter: I think I'd enjoy the series more if I could understand it. I think that's more a condemnation of myself rather than Friedrich's writing. It's just so thick with underlying messages, I tend to get lost in the bog. Having said that, I enjoyed the heck out of this issue with its astronomical body count and psycho superhero shenanigans (even if the climax shows the entire adventure was more of a What If? alternate reality). I've not read anything this deranged since Mike Allred took a blowtorch and pickaxe to X-Force back in '01. Tom Sutton was a great horror artist but, aside from borderline characters like The Beast, superheroes weren't his forte.

Scott: This is for Dean Peter who "subtly hinted" at me to read this issue. So I gave it a go. This is some weird s--t. The art is painful and is often very retro. The majority of this story felt like a 50's anthology, except with the "it was only a dream" reset button. Because this is Counter-Earth, they got away with the sham, but it won't work a second time. This title has a little too much Christ imagery for my taste, one of the reasons I wasn't interested to begin with. I did it for you, Dean. Please credit my account accordingly.

Peter: The pink parking spot on the left side of the treehouse for the next two weeks, Professor Scott. All yours.


Chili #19
Combat Kelly #3
The Gunhawks #1 ->
Harvey #5
Journey Into Mystery #1
Jungle Action #1
Kid Colt Outlaw #163
Li'l Kids #8
Marvel's Greatest Comics #38
Marvel Tales #38
Marvel Triple Action #6
Mighty Marvel Western #20
Millie the Model #198
Monsters on the Prowl #19
Our Love Story #19
The Outlaw Kid #12
The Rawhide Kid #104
Sgt. Fury #103
Wyatt Earp #30
The X-Men #78

 The Gunhawks #1: As a certified Connecticut Yankee, I bristled at this tale of evil bluecoats ruining the idyllic racial harmony down on the old plantation, yet I have no serious complaints about the artwork by Timely alumni Syd Shores (who would pass away on June 3, 1973) and Sol Brodsky, better known to Silver-Age readers as Marvel’s production manager.  I’m not sure what historians would make of the Confederate ex-slave Reno Jones, but I will say that reading old sagebrush hand Gary Friedrich’s script about a black man and a white man saddling up together in search of the former’s lost love, written 40 years before Django Unchained, was an interesting juxtaposition.  The series outlived less-interesting co-star Kid Cassidy, killed in #6, by one issue.        -Matthew Bradley

<- Though the first five issues of Jungle Action are given up to reprints, the title would soon become a showcase for new adventures of The Black Panther (at which time, the MU coverage will be bumped upstairs). In the first five issues, we're graced with revisits from jungle heroes Lo-Zar (here rechristened Tharn, no doubt to stave off confusion with Ka-Zar), Lorna the Jungle Girl, and Jann of the Jungle all reprinted from short-lived and otherwise forgotten Golden Age titles. The fifth issue gives reader a tease for the new series: a reprinting of Avengers #62, "The Monarch and the Man-Ape" (March 1969).              
 -Peter Enfantino

And then there's Journey Into Mystery Volume 2 #1.  ->               Over at DC, the "mystery line" (aka the horror anthology titles) seem to be expanding monthly. The honchos at Marvel seem to reason that if they can overtake the competitors at the superhero game, why not the scary stuff? So, obviously learning nothing from the failed experiment of Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness three years before, Marvel takes one shoe off and dips its toes into the murky water of horror anthologies once again. Resurrecting the Journey Into Mystery banner once held above "featuring The Mighty Thor" and "borrowing" a name once used by Harvey in the pre-code 1950s for Chamber of Chills, The Rascally One feeds his need for the very-popular Robert E. Howard and has some of his brightest stars contribute filler. The result, this month, is not too bad. Howard's "Dig Me No Grave" (the prose of which originally appeared in the February, 1937 issue of Weird Tales, eight months after Howard put a gun to his head) is an effective "Bargain with the Devil" tale with nice art by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer. Adaptor Roy nails Howard's lazy ("I should get to the point but then I'm being paid by the word") horror story style of writing, easing us down those corridors for the final shock. All that's missing is the writer in front of the typewriter, banging out the actions of the Sliggeroth as it tears down the door... "It's approaching, it's reaching for my... Arrrrrgh!" Stainless Steve Englehart contributes the silly short-short, "House," about a man trapped in a building that comes to life. He slips on the house's saliva and trips down its stomach. I like Ralph Reese but his art here is nothing more than a man standing in a room for several panels. It's all topped off by the inane "You Show Me Your Dream -- I'll Show You Mine!!", wherein a man and woman have the same dream every night and then it comes true to the misfortune of the man. How are the two connected and why do they have the same nightmare every night? Who knows? Ask writer Steve Skeates. Jim Starlin's pencils, soon to take the Marvel world by storm, are lost in a sea of Ploog inks. A decent story and two losers is a pretty good scorecard for a Marvel horror comic book. JIM and CoC, like Tower and Chamber of Darkness, would only see a handful of original material issues before sliding into the reprint wasteland (which would grow exponentially into the mid-70s), but before they do, we'll see a bonafide classic in JIM #2. More then. -Peter Enfantino


  1. Professor Joe, you clearly have a subconscious jones for Manny due to his early connection with your favorite Marvel hero of all, Ka-Zar! Oh, and that spider guy is pretty cool, too.

    Professor Scott, I haven't read this (or almost any) issue of HERO FOR HIRE, so I'm confused about your synopsis identifying the Vietnam vet who gets killed as "D.W." I know enough about Cage to know that one of the key supporting characters in the strip was named D.W. Griffith (not the film director), so I checked the MCDb, which identifies this guy as Owen Ridgely. Does he go by multiple monikers in this issue?

    Dean Enfantino, funny you should say that about Graham inking Tuska in HERO FOR HIRE. I just made almost exactly the same observation about Esposito in IRON MAN #59. Great minds think alike, I guess.

    Professor Chris, nice job desconstructing the defects of this month's SPOTLIGHT. Presumably a miracle that more didn't emerge from "Groovy Gary's" alcoholic haze. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

    Professor Scott: "The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name"--is that anything like last week's FF title, "Where the Sun Dares Not Shine"?

    Re: JUNGLE ACTION, I know #5 is just a reprint to whet our appetites for the imminent Panther strip, but I do love that Romita cover, and hope you guys will reproduce it in "Also This Month" when the time comes.

    1. "Professor Scott, I haven't read this (or almost any) issue of HERO FOR HIRE, so I'm confused about your synopsis identifying the Vietnam vet who gets killed as "D.W."

      Not me sir, Luke Cage is under the watchful eye of Prof. Tom.

      Whew! He almost guessed my secret identity!

  2. "Dig me no grave" is one of the first Marvel tales I read as a young lad. It was a back-up in the german Edition of Dr.Strange #1in 75. (These edition difffered a lot form the originals.) I didn't get the Howard connection back then, but never forgot the story somehow. It was much more impressive then the simple monster tales I knew. I read the original years later, still have a soft spot for it. The comic was a good adaption.

  3. Once I learn to read, my comments are gonna be AWESOME!

  4. It should be noted that Shuma-Gorath, who is invoked (as I have just learned) in "Dig Me No Grave," is also the name of the demon in the allegedly REH-inspired storyline now underway in MARVEL PREMIERE.