Wednesday, January 1, 2014

March 1973 Part Two: It's All Comin' Up Sevens!

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire 7
"Jingle Bombs!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by George Tuska and Billy Graham 

It's Christmas time in New York as Luke Cage looks outside the window and sees a surly man lashing a boy with a cane. Cage comes to the rescue and discovers that Marley, the child's attacker, speaks and dresses from an early era in the past century. Cage lets the strange man go on his way after he explains he hit the boy for charging him fifty cents for a newspaper that only cost two cents back in his day. The night only gets weirder as Luke Cage takes his girl Claire out for a good time on the town and an apparently disabled Vietnam veteran attacks him with a machine gun. After Luke crushes the crazed vet's weapon, the couple are later assaulted by a man wearing futuristic clothing, claiming to be an officer from the year 1984 who needs to check their identification. Cage pummels the goon for a spell and then turns him over to the cops. The deranged man from the future escapes after knocking the officers out in the squad car. Leaving Claire behind, Cage tracks the man's footprints until he comes across a guy dressed as Santa Claus. Letting his guard down, our hero gets knocked unconscious when the faux Saint Nick clobbers him with a bell. The next thing he knows, Cage is bound in chains and held hostage by a man wearing an executioner's hood. The villain gloats that he was the same person that attacked the kid, was the war veteran and also was the cop from the future. He relates that he likes to role play and that the past was his favorite time because people cared for each other more. During his time in WWII, the nutcase was able to steal a nuclear bomb which he's placed in Manhattan. Believing Cage to be his equal, he wants him to be a part of witnessing the carnage as he detonates the bomb from the machine in his home. The sound of someone coming down the chimney distracts the madman long enough for Cage to free himself and knock the bad guy out cold. After destroying the nuclear bomb detonation machine, Cage finds out that the man coming down the chimney is a bungling burglar who admits to him that he has been casing the joint for some time. The story ends with both hero and burglar looking out the window as the morning sun rises. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: Um...yeah. Does it say something about my current mental state if I enjoyed reading this story? Don't get me wrong, I would never recommend it to anybody to read or anything. The strange holiday villain is straight out of a slasher movie. Though I'm guessing this was his only appearance, one begins to wonder just what else this sick freak was doing in his spare time. Dressing up cats as reindeer and then throwing them in a wood chipper? Putting on a Easter bunny costume and digging up his parents' corpses from the cemetery? I'm just saying this guy had the potential to be a more fearsome villain then either Galactus or Thanos.

The Incredible Hulk 161
"Beyond the Border Lurks Death!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Herb Trimpe and Sal Trapani

The Beast and the lovely Vera sneak into Canada so they can help out an old friend. In a far off cabin in the woods hides the sick mutant known as the Mimic. With his powers growing fiercely out of control, the Mimic needs the Beast's help to cure him or all mankind is doomed. The Mimic needs the strength of others in order to survive and when he is not in mental control of his powers, his body siphons off the energy of living things in the area, killing them. One unlucky enough to be in the vicinity is the Hulk. As he leaps about looking for Betty in Canada, the Hulk grows weak and fatigued, falling off a mountain and into the Mimc's cabin below. Knowing that somehow the Mimic is responsible for his life being slowly sucked away, the Hulk attacks him but the newly-arrived Beast tries to save the day by fighting with the Green Goliath. Deciding that the best thing to do would be to sacrifice his own life to save everyone else, the Mimic grabs hold of the Hulk and absorbs his radiation, killing himself in the process. With the Hulk back to his full powers, he leaps off to continue his quest for Betty while General Ross and the troops are not far behind. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: For a Hulk story this was short, sweet, and to the point. I always like an appearance from the Beast and while I'm not too familiar with the Mimic character, I thought his ending was nicely done.

Matthew: Like Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, “This is another book I inherited from Archie Goodwin,” Englehart noted on his site, “which was made doubly fun by the artist…Herb and I both worked in the Bullpen, and he’d been on the book for years, so it was a no-brainer to get every bit of his input every month.  This was made even better by the fact that he’s a terrifically nice guy.”  In the credits of this issue, which ties up the Vera Cantor plotline that had been dangling since the last days of the Beast’s late, lamented solo strip in Amazing Adventures, Messrs. Englehart, Trapani & Co. “hereby tender their heartfelt congrats to Happier-Than-Ever Herb Trimpe, for finally taking the plunge and getting married [to Linda Fite], the son-of-a-gun!”

Peter: "The return of one of the best-loved heroes in the history of comics..."? Right. This guy's been gone from comics how long? A month? One of the best-loved? Nah. It's a good story though, I do admit. I wondered why the heck, if the world depended on Hank and Vera getting to the Mimic by the next day, they'd be sitting in traffic at the border rather than knocking on the Avengers Mansion door, but Stainless actually gives us a respectable excuse in the end. Hank's not really all that smart though since, in one panel he says "the Hulk is obviously the source for the power Cal's already absorbed..." and in the very next panel he says "something's wrong, (The Hulk) is weaker than he should be..." Do the math, Hank! All together though, it's an exciting one-off with not a lot of fat on its bones. For those of you worried that Cal (Mimic) is actually dead, take heart, he'll be back eventually.

The Invincible Iron Man 56
"Rasputin's Revenge"
Story by Jim Starlin and Steve Gerber
Art by Jim Starlin and Mike Esposito

Back in New York, Iron Man seeks to warn the Avengers about Thanos but finds the mansion empty except for Jarvis, so he changes to Tony for a walk in Central Park, where the self-styled “Priest of Purity,” Rasputin, plans to summon demons with his enchanted “Tavistick.”  Rasputin calls All the Evils of Man—a statue nicknamed “Fangor” by its creator, Fival Fuvnik—blasphemous, and a collision with a TV camera apparently gives his winged-skull staff the power to animate Fangor. Tony armors up, but during the battle, the Tavistick is broken, and Rasputin is unable to control Fangor; as he flees into the path of an oncoming police car, Iron Man freezes and shatters Fangor with his unstable-freon mini-bomb, yet an embittered Rasputin has survived. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: This issue starts one brief stint on Shellhead (by writer Steve Gerber, after which it will revert to Friedrich) and ends another (by penciler Jim Starlin, reportedly to give Tuska a leg up on Luke Cage), but since Starlin had already been assigned to Captain Marvel, all’s well that ends well, if I may indulge in an understatement of epic proportions. Steve’s decidedly offbeat little tale supposedly displeased Stan mightily, yet while I can see his point, I found it fun and full of cool visuals of the gigantic and hideous Fangor—again inked by Esposito—if as marked a contrast to Starlin’s prior Titan 101 entry as can be.  Surely a rarity, if not unique, the collaboration between this pair of towering Bronze-Age talents is intriguing…although it might not do for a steady diet.

Peter: An enjoyable fun-fest from start to finish and, for once, an Iron Man tale meant to be chuckled at. Ala this month's Doctor Strange tale in Marvel Premiere, this is a case of a comic book creeping up on me and working its magic on me for the first time. I laughed out loud several times: When Rasputin is electrocuted right in front of Stark and Tony turns the other cheek with a "Eh, I'm on break!"; Fangor shows his creator how much he appreciates him when he grinds him into the ground; and 'putin's incantation includes the word Frabnoil which everyone knows is Lion Barf backwards. I'm not sure what I would have thought of this issue as an eleven year-old MZ but, at 52, it's the bee's knees.

Kull the Conqueror 7
“Delcardes’ Cat”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Marie & John Severin

After slaying seven Valusian guards, the hotheaded Kulra Thorr from Zarfhaana is subdued by King Kull, only spared by the pleading of the peasant’s betrothed, Lady Delcardes. In thanks, Delcardes warns Kull of a plot against his life. Weeks later, Kull and Brule kill a band of assassins, one who speaks of Thulsa Doom. The king tries to thank Lady Delcardes for her warning, but the noblewoman informs him that her ancient, talking cat, Saremes, was actually the one that predicted the plot. Saremes and her slave Kuthulos are given a royal chamber in appreciation. Days later, the chatty cat informs the monarch that Brule has been pulled beneath the Forbidden Lake by unspeakable demons and that Kull must ride off alone to save his friend. When Kull reaches the lake he dives in and is attacked by a manateepus, giant tarantula, and other gruesome creatures. After the royal barbarian repels them all, he discovers a glowing tree with an ornate sword embedded in its trunk. Kull removes the blade and is soon surrounded by eerie, vengeful Lake-Men. But when the watery warriors see that Kull holds the mystic sword they offer peace, since only a true king could free the weapon. The leader of the Lake-Men also tells Kull that he has been the only human to enter the Forbidden Lake in eons. Kull realizes that Saremes has betrayed him and that Brule was never in danger. When the king returns to Valusia and confronts the now silent Saremes, Kuthulos approaches and reveals himself to be Thulsa Doom. Boasting that he used the normal cat as a vessel for his evil machinations, Doom disappears, vowing to return. -Thomas Flynn

Tom Flynn: This issue is as goofy as it sounds. A fake talking cat? The sword-in-the-stone ripoff? Thulsa Doom prattling on for two pages about his invincibility and then basically saying “Sorry chaps, I’m a bit busy at the moment but I’ll return at a later date to strip the skin off your skulls”? And a manateepus? Conway doesn’t name the monster, but it sure looks like a manatee and an octopus did the underwater tango. I apologize beforehand, but you gotta figure that the octopus was the pitcher since it had more arms. Do you think that the SyFy Channel will bite on my new screenplay, Manateepusnado? The tagline is “Blubber has never been more gripping!” Come to think of it, a giant tarantula in a lake is fairly dumb as well. It’s like Gerry figured he could make an interesting story by packing in as many oddball elements as he could. No deal, Ger. I also find it strange that Kulra Thorr is from Zarfhaana, the same region as last issue’s character Zarkus, but nothing is made of it. Not much brooding at least. And it’s nice that Kull decides to befriend the innocent pawn Saremes, welcoming the sleepy cat into his throneroom. But like the Demascar orphans and Zarkus, I’m sure that the white old tabby will be forgotten as well.

Marvel Feature 8
Ant-Man in
"Prelude to Disaster!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Craig Russell, Jim Starlin and Jimmy Janes

Not for the last time, the Dreaded Deadline Doom strikes this brief strip as Hank falls from a tree while trying to evade the murderous approach of his monster-wasp wife.  That prompts a recollection of Jan’s origin, as told by Lee and Kirby in Tales to Astonish #44, albeit about two pages shorter than the version Stan included in The Superhero Women in 1977.  It seems hard to believe that it took two pencilers (Craig Russell and fellow newcomer Jim Starlin, not that I could tell the difference)—embellished by another historical curiosity, Jimmy Janes, in his only Marvel inking credit—to illustrate Mike’s almost-four new pages, which end with a one-panel montage of Hank’s successive identities and foes, and Jan’s attack continuing… -Matthew Bradley

Marvel Premiere 7
Doctor Strange in
"The Shadows of the Starstone!"
Story by Gardner Fox
Art by Craig Russell, Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, and David Hunt

In the scroll he has wrested from the defeated N’Gabthoth, Dr. Strange sees evil that chills even his soul. He heads to England, the town of Penmallow. His companions Wong and Clea vow to follow ASAP. A man names Henry Gordon, who has inherited the manor called Witch House, seeks its whereabouts in said town, only to find it’s inhabitants terrified by his questions. Nonetheless Henry moves onward to the terrifying house and big property, where his knock is answered by a beautiful but ominous woman named Bondine--his Uncle Jed’s housekeeper. She shows him the massive library, where Henry reads through some of the material. He learns that the ancient sunken city of Kalumesh, whose inhabitants were ruled by an evil being named Dagoth (itself one more servant of Shuma-Gorath, who awaits awakening).  The next day Henry and Blondine go scuba diving in search of Kalumesh, and find more than they bargained for. Not only do they find Kalumesh, but Dagoth himself, a hideous red monster that towers over him. Their fate would be sealed if Dr. Strange didn’t arrive at that moment. Dagoth proves to be a fearsome foe, but Steven manages to imprison him in the Seven Rings Of Raggador, bringing Henry and Blondine back to the manor. He probes Blondine’s mind and finds in a previous reincarnation she was Dagoth’s High Priestess. All of Kalumesh fell into the sea when the Elders of good struck it down. She sleeps, exhausted, but when Dr. Strange leaves, she awakes under a spell of Dagoth, bathing a Starstone that Henry found on the beach in the moonlight through the manor’s window.  The Starstone allows Dagoth not only his freedom, but also the ability to hypnotize the townspeople, including Dr. Strange, to walk into the sea. The timely arrival of Wong and Clea (who calls on the powers of good spirits) awaken Strange from his stupor.  He turns Dagoth’s power against him, as the evil one is send into exile in another realm. Blondine is now free of his influence, and they return to Witch House. Upon returning to the manor, they find it’s an evil trap, one which closes behind them. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: It seems there’s no end to the evils that Dr. Strange must face en route to Shuma-Gorath. Dagoth is perhaps the best yet, and gives Dr. Strange a real run for his money. The vision is very nicely realized with Craig Russell’s art. We were supposed to be headed to Stonehenge, but didn’t get past Penmallow, a delightfully haunted little town. In such a dense script, a few oddities slip through. One moment Henry thinks that Blondine is out to swindle him, next he wants to save her at all costs (next stop romance) when Dagoth appears! And when the two of them awake after Dr Strange saves them, it appears the dialogue for him and Blondine are reversed. The Witch House is fabulous, and what better setting in all literature than a haunted house?

Matthew: Hands up if you’ve ever heard someone say, “I feel cold terror running up and down my spine,” or anything remotely like it.  No?  Me neither, which is probably all of the evidence we need that the literary stylings of Gardner Effing Fox are once more on display.  The lettercol actually admits that Fox screwed the pooch in #5—along with “Kwesley” and Perlin—and yet, like the very definition of a crazy person, they keep trying the same thing over and over.  At least penciler du jour Craig Russell gets to spread his wings a little, with a full issue after his meager contribution to this month’s Ant-Man mishegoss, and gives us a pretty cool Dagoth (love that full-pager), while inkers “Esposito, Giacoia, & Hunt” provide a surprisingly consistent look.

Mark Barsotti: What began as the Starkesboro saga (that is, a bastardized version of H. P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth") slogs on, with diminishing returns. After the Doc flies off to England, leaving Clea and Wong to follow in his wake, we're introduced to Henry Gordon, in the small English town of Penmallow to claim his estate. "Witch House is my inheritance from my Uncle Jed!" generic bore Henry exclaims when the locals shun him. "Why is everyone so afraid of it?" I don't know, brainiac, maybe because it's called "Witch House."

Peter: Call me a nut but despite, or maybe because of, Fox's wholesale pillaging of every single word H.P. ever wrote (Dagoth? The Witch-House? Kathulos?), I love the heck out of this dopey crap. There's nothing even remotely this outre in the rest of the Marvel Universe. Where else will you get purple prose like "The strange jewel is cold to his hands -- as though touched by the frigid voids between the stars."? I spit coffee all over my unslabbed digital file of Marvel Premiere #7 when Clea exclaimed "Wong is right!" The art looks straight out of a pre-code. Let's enjoy this while it lasts. Seriously, this is a goldmine. 

Mark: Henry finds his way to his new castle on a lightning-lit hill (natch), then finds Blondine in residence as the housekeeper. She has a murky past, but unlike the Starkesboro babes, who went all fish-face in thrall of Shuma-Gorath, Blondine retains her looks as, under the Doc's All-Seeing Eye of Agamotto, she relives her past life as High Priestess for Dagoth, this issue's aquatic/demonic adversary. Writer Gardner Fox again has Doc Strange battling beneath the sea, and the water-logged warlock must by now be due for a barnacle-scraping. Craig Russell's art is decent, but despite this meandering-tale's Lovecraftian roots, Fox's story-telling remains mostly all wet. Like our Dean a few "months" ago on Captain America, I'm waiting for the arrival of Steve Englehart.

Marvel Team-Up 7
The Amazing Spider-Man and The Mighty Thor in
"A Hitch in Time"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Ross Andru and Jim Mooney

Thor watches Peter risk his secret i.d. to foil a mugging, but their barbed exchange is interrupted as the world turns negative, an effect that Thor recognizes, protecting Peter—who quickly changes to Spidey—with Mjolnir’s vortex.  With the Dark Crystal he found in a cavern beneath Asgard, Kryllk the Cruel has stopped time on Earth as a stepping-stone in his second attempted invasion, and disappears with his trolls.  Using the Avengers’ monitors, Spidey traces Kryllk past Asgard to an asteroid orbiting Jupiter, so the exiled Thor heads there and sends Spidey to Asgard, where time is also frozen; each faces and attacks a manifestation of Kryllk that abruptly vanishes, evidently spirited away by the Watcher, from whom he had stolen the crystal. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Not quite a train-wreck, this is, frankly, a dud despite its serviceable Andru/Mooney art; it seems even worse when read back to back with Thor’s guest-shot in the current Sub-Mariner and was, ironically, perpetrated by his regular writer.  Almost five pages are expended on the “symbolic splash” and what I guess is supposed to be the comics equivalent of a “meet cute,” but instead comes across as “meet dumb.”  I’d object less if those pages couldn’t have been put to far better use in the service of a story that is now fatally undernourished, with ill-matched co-stars, plot holes galore, an undesirably frantic pace, a breathtaking lack of clarity, a boring bad guy (who is supposedly a formidable former foe of Thor’s), and a deus ex machina.  To quote Peter, “Oboy.”

Joe Tura: An OK issue, with a story that seems to end way too fast, although we don't mind that it does. I like the Andru/Mooney team, except for a couple of odd panels like when Thor is channelling Jack Benny on page 15 (above). A taste of things to come on Amazing Spider-Man and it's not horrible. I just wonder about a couple of things. Like why is Thor sitting on a fire escape watching Spidey foil a mugging? Why do the Marvel writers always bring in the Watcher to save their story when they write themselves into a corner? Why not more of the negative effect? Why did I like this issue as a kid only to find myself mildly interested as an old fart?

Sub-Mariner 59
"Thunder Over the Seas!"
Story by Bill Everett and Steve Gerber
Art by Sam Kweskin and John Tartaglione

Namor bids farewell to alien outsider Tamara as he goes away to contemplate things. Head military scout Lorvex talks Tamara into joining him as he shows her around Atlantis. When he tries to make sexual advances on her, Tamara throttles him and swims off. A Russian trawler accidentally catches her in its fishing net when she swims too far to the surface. After an American vessel gets involved, it's decided to turn Tamara over to the United Nations in New York City. Thor is sent over from the Avengers to guard Tamara since she keeps trying to escape. Namor gives Lorvex a beating when he finds out why Tamara has gone missing. As Namorita sees the news coverage of Tamara's capture, she calls Namor through their ear rings to let him know where Tamara is being held. While he tries his best to save her, Namor loses an ensuing battle with Thor. Knowing that he cannot save Tamara alone, Subby seriously considers once again taking charge of his throne and leading an army to the surface world. -Tom McMillion

Oy, that's gotta hurt!

Tom McMillion: The Subby versus Thor battle had a few interesting dynamics in it but wasn't enough to save this story. The attempts at comedy with the squabbling U.N. Members hasn't aged well, and I have a hard time believing it was funny even back then. What was interesting was Namor's apparent decision to become the leader of Atlantis again. It's been so long since he relinquished his place as ruler that sometimes I forget that he even did so.

Matthew:  This being the last issue from the original “cluster” of comics that have been in the family since back in the day, I can’t be sure I’m not looking at it through rose-colored nostalgia, but I think it’s dynamite, even with Kweskin’s layouts.  This time, they’re whipped into shape by John Tartaglione, while Gerber once again does an excellent job of scripting Everett’s plot, with the reasons for the Thor/Namor battle clearly stated rather than being the result of an annoying MARMIS; I like the cop addressing the reader in page 15, panel 1. Briefly introduced in #54, barbarian defense scout Lorvex has a nice featured role here, but apparently vanishes after next issue (which seems a shame), and good use is made of crimson alien Tamara.

Peter: Blink and you'll miss guest star Thor (that's probably because he had to catch a hammer to London). Steve Gerber continues to refine that acerbic wit he'll one day be celebrated for but he's not above throwing in really bad one-liners as well (as witnessed by the dialogue spouted by the U.N. delegates). I'm going to miss Bill Everett something fierce but hopefully Gerber keeps this title on track (story-wise at least) before the inevitable decline begins in a few issues (dear God, do we really have to read something illustrated by the Dreaded Dons Perlin and Heck?). 

The Mighty Thor 209
"Warriors in the Night!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Vince Colletta

Days of searching for his beloved Sif have landed Thor in London, England. He transforms into Don Blake and enters a local tavern, having neglected his need to eat. Unbeknownst to Blake, the energy released from his transformation has awoken a sleeping being under the Earth, who literally rockets upward to the Earth’s surface. The good doctor rightly feels Thor would be the right man to investigate, and reverses his transformation. Calling upon the self-titled Demon Druid to reveal his mission, the being doesn’t desire communication, and blasts Thor into unconsciousness. When Thor awakes, Lieutenant Prichard of Scotland Yard fills him in on what’s been happening. The Demon Druid has been walking across the country, a force field around him repelling even the best military efforts to stop him. While Thor takes off in pursuit, the inquisitive inspector (having seen the symbol on the Druid’s chest, combined with learning that the stone that encased him is about three thousand years old) correctly surmises the Demon is headed for Stonehenge. Having been downed again by the alien, Thor is slowed enough for Prichard to catch up to him and inform Thor that the Druid has really only acted in self-defense. They let him continue his trek to Stonehenge, where he blasts off to whatever homeland he came from. No doubt he was left on Earth three thousand years ago, for reasons unknown, by his visiting race that must have inspired the people of Earth to follow their Pagan religion. -Jim Barwise

Jim: When it was pointed out the Demon Druid had attacked only in self-defense (not quite true), I wondered what damage he could have done if in full attack mode, having rendered Thor unconscious not once but twice, a first to my knowledge. The setting of England was a nice change; I wish we could have seen more of it. The explanation for Stonehenge is an interesting one for one of Earth’s mysteries—it really was aliens! Nice touch having the Vizier visit Don Blake in the tavern was a nice touch. Some great full-page art too.

Matthew: Marvel readers certainly get their fill of Thor this month:  in addition to his regular appearances here and in The Avengers, he co-stars in Marvel Team-Up and also has a guest-shot in Sub-Mariner, courtesy of four writers and as many pairs of artists.  Unfortunately, designated scribe Gerry does poorly by him both in MTU and here on his home turf, although Buscema and Colletta once again mesh better than usual, providing several impressive full-page shots.  The fault, to paraphrase the Bard (as long as we’re in Merrie Olde England), lies not in our artists but in our writer; for example, how is it that Thor “has sought…to reverse whatever act of his awoke this rampaging demon” when only we, the readers, know that his transformation to Blake did it?

Peter: There's an exciting story buried deep under Gerry Conway's cliches this issue but you've got to dig and dig to get there. We're never told why, for example, The Mighty Thor chose this street to land in his search for Sif (other than a hunger that can only be filled by this particular tavern) but, when he does, he naturally alights in just the right spot. Forget that a moment though... and forget the Brits who talk just like "the Bloody Cheeky English, Guv'nah"... and imagine a druid cult that would wear great big gold belt buckles... and dismiss a Scotland Yard inspector (surely a former British Museum professor) who puts two and two together and comes up with the theory about "druids which must have used his star-spanning race as a model for their pagan religion just as they used his launching pad (Stonehenge) as a heathen temple never knowing that the creatures they worshipped were merely an advanced race of men and that one of that race had been left behind..." all in the time it takes said inspector to open the right book... and ignore for a nanosecond that all this could have been avoided if  "The Deadly Druid" had simply asked "Do you blokes know the way to Stonehenge?" All of this silliness could have been made believable with a little more imagination on Conway's part. The druids who want their pilgrim back could have manipulated Thor into landing in just that area and I would have bought that in a second. Despite my plethora of nits, I found this tale to be a decent time-waster. I don't need any more than that sometimes.

The Tomb of Dracula 7
"Night of the Death Stalkers!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

Heavy snow falls as a malnourished Dracula surveys the London streets below from a mountaintop. Summoning rats to help him corral a woman to his liking, Dracula swoops in for the kill. It's not Drac's lucky day as the woman, named Edith, is the daughter of a veteran vampire hunter Quincy Harker. A crucifix that she wears around her neck frightens off the count and her father comes in on his motorized wheel chair along with his loyal dog to keep the rats away. Quincy sends a telegram to Rachel Van Helsing that relates his recent vampire encounter. Rachel, Taj, and Frank Drake head to London where they meet up with Quincy and he takes them to his home. While there, he tells them his story about how his family had fought alongside Rachel's against Dracula and his vampires. An inventor, Quincy shows everyone the new gadgets that will help capture and kill Dracula. Meanwhile, the Count is steamed. Hatching a scheme for revenge, he hypnotizes a group of children and has them follow him back to his mansion where his creepy servant Cliff Graves is waiting. He then goes out and kills a drunken man on his way home from a tavern. The vampire hunters hear the resulting screams so they go to investigate. The elusive Dracula is able to escape them as he flies back to his crib. As Taj and Drake peer through his window, they witness what appears to be Dracula going in to his coffin for some shuteye. Using stealth, the vampire hunters break into the mansion where they subdue Clifton Graves. All is not as it seems as Dracula had Graves place a corpse in his coffin diguised to look like him. Dracula then sicks his horde of brainwashed children on the bewildered vampire hunters. The story ends with Quincy Harker shooting Dracula with a poisonous dart as the children move in to kill.
-Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: Another well done Dracula tale that has a pretty decent cliffhanger. I like when Quincy has his daughter wait outside the mansion, as the rest of the vampire hunters move in for the kill, in case they need her to summon a mysterious ally. Without skipping ahead, I'm guessing it could be Blade though I might be wrong. The creators consistently nail the horror elements for this series. My only gripe is the dialogue tends to get a little cheesy but that could be said about every Marvel title back in the 1970's.

Peter: Marv Wolfman begins his epic run on a series that, under Gardner Effin Fox, was in danger of becoming Vampire By Night and immediately brings a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Yep, we're still witness to a group of folk committed to spending 25 hours a day to staking a creature that can become fog, smoke, rats, wolves, Girl Scout cookies, and anything else at hand, but you get a sense that Marv has a few plot lines bubbling (hmmm, who's the special agent Quincy asks to be called in?). I never read this series as a kid (vampires have always bored me to tears) but, now knowing the legendary status accorded, I'm itchin' to be converted. An interesting angle when Frank Drake compares Quincy Harker's weapons room to "an old Hammer movie set." So, if in the Marvel Universe, Hammer Films exists, did that studio release Horror of Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula, and the rest of their classic series as if the character were a creation of Bram Stoker? Opens up quite a can of worms!

Werewolf By Night 4
"The Danger Game!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Bolle

Werewolf by Night is on the run from big game hunter Joshua Kane, who wounds our hairy hero with silver bullets! Flashback to less than 24 hours before, where WWBN carries off Lissa after the battle with the Mad Monk, and when she wakes, she senses the Werewolf is really her brother Jack! Then Joshua Kane finds her and stands down the Werewolf, who turns back into Jack and wakes up in Castle Kane! Turns out Kane is looking for a new challenge and wants to stalk a werewolf, so he holds Lissa hostage so he can hunt Jack in an old movie lot. The two battle hand-to-hand then quietly hunt each other, until Kane tracks the werewolf to a room in the lot where he keeps shooting, and ends up being terrorized—by a movie prop bear, with Jack watching all the while. –Joe Tura

Joe: Does this issue merit Landmark Issue status for the first Marvel cover ever featuring the word “useta”? Nah, let’s get serious….A decent tale, this one features an interesting villain in Joshua Kane, who has strength and determination and no motive whatsoever, making him the perfect Werewolf By Night baddie. He’s tough as nails but meets such an abrupt end that you just have to think, did they run out of time or something? Decent Ploog art with decent Frank Bolle inks (whoever he is) and a decent Conway script. Well, actually better than decent script, but just such a rushed ending that it kinda ruins the whole thing. 32 pages and they would have nailed it. Which is more than we can say about upcoming issues if I can read the Dean’s mind.

Peter: Just a handful of issues into this run (with a whole bunch more a'comin') and Professor Joe's already wishing it was Summer Vacation! Well, Joe, there is a bit of respite coming soon in the shape of Gerry Conway, but don't hold your breath there's anything readable before then.

Also This Month

Beware #1
Chamber of Chills #3
Crypt of Shadows #2
FOOM #1 ->
Fantastic Four Annual #10 (all-reprint)
Kid Colt Outlaw #168
L'il Pals #4
Marvel's Greatest Comics #41
Marvel Super-Heroes #35
Marvel Tales #42
Mighty Marvel Western #23
My Love #22
Night Nurse #3
Rawhide Kid #109
Red Wolf #6
Ringo Kid #19
Sgt. Fury #108
Special Marvel Edition #9
Spoof #4
Tex Dawson #2
Two-Gun Kid #109
War is Hell #2
Western Gunfighters #14
Where Monsters Dwell #20

FOOM (aka Friends of 'ol Marvel) was the second in-house "fanzine" published by Marvel (following the short-lived Marvelmania in 1969), devoted to the devotion of the new number one comic book company in the world. The zine was edited and designed by Jim Steranko for its first four issues and then was helmed by various hands for the remainder of its 22 issues (the last number being dated Fall 1978). Though a lot of the magazine was given over to puff pieces and glorified advertisements, it could also be relied on to present art never shown before and some interesting interviews as well. As far as I know, FOOM was only available through subscriptions directly from Marvel and never sold on newsstands. Copies can be found on eBay at reasonable prices.

<- Beware was yet another entry in Marvel's "Flood the Market with Reprints" sweepstakes, offering up little slices of Marvel horror, both pre- and post-code. The first issue featured a sharp werewolf story, illustrated by John Romita, from the classic Menace title as well as a nice Joe Sinnott shocker from Spellbound #16 (August 1953). -Peter Enfantino

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