Wednesday, June 18, 2014

March 1974 Part Two: And Steve Saith to Frank, "Let's Us Con Stan!"

 Marvel Premiere 14
"Sise-Neg Genesis"
Story by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner
Art by Frank Brunner and Dick Giordano
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Frank Brunner

Stephen Strange and his arch-foe Mordo follow the being known as Sise-Neg on a journey into the past towards the dawn of time. The latter plans to absorb all the magic of the ages, and become like unto a God. First stop, Camelot, where Dr. Strange saves the life of Lancelot, and Sise-Neg absorbs all of Merlin’s powers. Next, the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, where the time’s magical Priests of Death only anger Sise-Neg, who lays waste to their city. Onward or backward they continue, at each point Mordo attempting to sway Sise-Neg to destroy humanity, Strange to save them from being erased into non-existence. In the time of dinosaurs, they encounter an unknown other-dimensional entity: Shuma-Gorath!! Dr. Strange appeals to Sise-Neg: although he is far above the ape-like creatures here that are the ancestors of man, they still are the ones who would spawn him in the distant future. Sise-Neg cannot abandon them, so he sends Shuma-Gorath into another dimension, to sleep for millennia. Now back at the beginning of time, Strange and Mordo witness the creation of the cosmos in reverse. When all goes black, it seems they are eternally lost. Sise-Neg then appears and tells them he realizes the pettiness of his dream of power. He renames himself Genesis, and vows to recreate all time as it was. He returns them to their respective presents, Dr. Strange to New Year’s Eve, 1974.-Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: Once again Englehart and Brunner prove they are the masters of this magic title. They cleverly show us bits of human mythical history like King Arthur and Sodom and Gomorrah, along with Strange’s own history, that of Shuma-Gorath. Sise-Neg’s changes of appearance and form along the way make his transformation into a supremely powerful being believable; yet even he is not above learning humility. The culmination, with Sise-Neg becoming Genesis, and returning them to the future, is satisfying, as mainly happens in this title.

Matthew Bradley: I long knew the Englehart/Brunner run by reputation only, except for the 1975 treasury-edition reprint of #10, so I’m not burdened—if that is the word—by nostalgia for them. And as much as I love me my Stainless, I re-read what he calls on his website “the famous ‘Sise-neg GenesiS’” with primarily historic interest, although aside from a few hinky faces, I can muster the proper reverence for Frank’s art. But I was surprised to see it inked by Giordano (Sal Trapani’s brother-in-law), whose name I consider synonymous with DC; he would continue with both Brunner’s brief run on Doc’s second solo title and his successor here beginning next issue, Iron Fist, yet most of his Marvel credits as a penciler and/or embellisher are outside my purview. In Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Brunner related that Stan “wrote us a letter saying, ‘We can’t do God. You’re going to have to print, in the letters column, a retraction, saying this is not the God, this is just a god.’ Steve and I said, ‘Oh, come on! This is the whole point of the story! If we did that retraction of God, this is meaningless!’ So, we…wrote a letter from a Reverend Billingsley in Texas, a fictional person, saying that one of the children in his parish brought him the comic book, and he was astounded and thrilled by it, and he said, ‘Wow, this is the best comic book I’ve ever read.’” The unwitting Roy had them run the letter—mailed by Englehart during a layover in Dallas, to ensure the proper postmark—instead of the retraction.

Chris Blake: Think of all the times that Marvel hypes up an issue as “senses-shattering!” Well, this ranks up there among the best brain-benders of all time – the lack of a hard-sell on the cover is an added bonus. The debate with Sise-Neg, as Strange and Mordo attempt to influence him, provides dramatic tension. Wisely, Steve does not position Strange as capable of influencing the outcome; neither does he try to wrap up this story with a tidy explanation – Strange, rightfully enough, can’t be entirely sure of what he has witnessed.

The Brunner/Giordano art here is good, but a little short of what the Bunkers had contributed to the past few issues; I believe that Frank & Dick’s future collaborations (coming soon in Doc’s own mag!) will be more impressive. 

Note: Learn more about this celebrated arc in a Sunday Special written by Professor Mark Barsotti this weekend!

The Incredible Hulk 173
"Anybody Out There Remember... The Cobalt Man?"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Herb Trimpe
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Jean Izzo
Cover by Herb Trimpe

The mighty Hulk makes his way back to New York where runs afoul of the military. He is able to escape to the harbor and stows away aboard a ship. After breaking through a mysterious force field, the exhausted Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner when he falls asleep. The ship is part of an expedition owned by Ralph Roberts, otherwise known as the Cobalt Man, that wants to sail the vessel through a nuclear blast. Like Banner, Ralph's brother Ted also sneaks aboard the ship. When he meets Bruce the two decide to leave each other alone since they are both unwelcome visitors. Their cover gets blown when Bruce has a nightmare about the Hulk and his screaming alerts everyone to their whereabouts. The Cobalt Man explains to Bruce how he had once battled the X-Men when he went insane while wearing the Cobalt suit. When the country that is testing the nuclear missile drops it from a plane over the Atlantic everyone, except the Cobalt Man, goes under the deck, shielded by a force field. Ted tries to stop his brother from walking into the blast but Bruce tackles him and absorbs the nuclear energy. His earlier psychosis repeats itself as the Cobalt Man once again dons his special armor. Bruce transforms into the Hulk just in time to stop the villain from wrecking the whole ship. The monsters fight it out pretty evenly, until the extra radiation the Cobalt Man exudes begins to turn the Hulk back into puny Banner. Before his transformation, the Hulkster smashes the Cobalt Man through the bottom of the ship into the ocean. The story ends with Ted and the others escaping, while the unconscious Banner starts to sink into the water with the capsized ship. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: Not too bad of a story for your typical "Hulk fights monstrous brute of the month" comic plot line. Unfortunately, by this point, the whole gamma/radiation-created creature of mass destruction that has to be stopped by Jade Jaws has gotten way beyond monotonous. The Cobalt Man isn't the worst villain I've seen the Hulk butt heads against. I'd rank him somewhere between 'The Glob and 'Zzzzzzaaaaaaaxxxxx,' or however you spell his name.

Matthew: The splash page trumpets that, “With this issue, Rascally Roy once more picks up the scripting reins of our green-skinned goliath. It’s been nigh on three years since he and Happie [sic] Herbie last joined forces to chronicle the Hulk’s rampages,” but he’d soon be supplanted briefly by Conway before Wein’s three-and-a-half-year run. I first encountered the Cobalt Man in Defenders #42, rather than here or in his early X-Men appearances, and consider the jury as still out on this two-parter. Herb proves once again that allowing a penciler to ink himself isn’t necessarily doing him—or us—any favors, while I counted four additional errors by letterer Jean Izzo, only one of which (“nothing loathe”) might be attributed to writer/editor Roy...

Scott McIntyre: An average issue, with the art slipping for the first time since Jack Abel took over the inks. There is no inker listed, leading me to believe Trimpe did his own. The results are disappointing. Some arresting images but not much logic, such as an atomic bomb going off that close to a boat without said ship being vaporized. The idea that Banner's already radiation-soaked body could act as a shield to protect another man is simply ludicrous. It's a shame, the first half of the story was an intriguing mystery. Once the Cobalt Man straps on his gear, it all goes into the dumper.

Ka-Zar 2
"The Fall of the Red Wizard"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Don Heck and Jack Abel
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

Trusty Zabu gets the splash page, bursting in to free his master Ka-Zar and Shanna from the clutches of the Red Wizard and Maa-Gor, who attacks K-Z and loses badly, until Malgato casts a spell on K-Z hat forces him to stop, then like any good villain, relays his plan to use K-Z and Shanna for human sacrifice. The trio of heroes are sent packing, then we learn Shanna was dropped into the Savage Land by a pterodactyl, right before the gang reaches the land of the Fall People and old friend Tongah. K-Z and Zabu save the villagers from a nasty triceratops, but they rebel against him, injuring Zabu in the process. But Ka-Zar and Shanna return to the castle, defeating Ma-Gor once more, toppling the sacred Flame Bowl and getting out to Dodge before curfew I reckon, leaving Shanna to swing off even though our hero wants her to stick around! —Joe Tura

And guest starring Angelina Jolie

Joe Tura: Artie Simek! Yeah! See, when the art’s as sloppy and mediocrely constructed as this one, and the script is as hokey and full of odd sexist dialogue as this one, you have to get excited about the letterer. Yeah, it’s late in the evening, the music is not seeping through and I’m reading an average ish of Ka-Zar. Sigh….It could always be worse—I could be Shanna’s eyebrows, which remind me of Bones McCoy. Then again, they show some life. At least faithful Savage Land buddy Tongah returns, but not in a good way as he attacks the golden-haired hero, then he 180s again. Geez. Even Zabu gets the short end of the claw, as sometimes he looks like a bad Scooby-Doo episode, especially on the last page. On the good foot, a Hawkeye Marvel Value Stamp! See, these are the ones I was missing since I never bought stuff like Ka-Zar and WWBN. Back then, I had good taste.

Man-Thing 3
"Day of the Killer, Night of the Fool!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Val Mayerik and Jack Abel
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letter by Jean Simek
Cover by John Romita

The Man-Thing watches as the construction crew discuss their failure to kill him. He then proceeds to charge forward, grabbing F.A. Schist and Wilbur Wickham, tossing them hard in the swamp. Next he tears asunder the metal shack that been set up to kill him before. Elsewhere in the swamp Richard Rory and his friend Ruth, say goodbye to the motorcycle gang whose integrity they recently saved. However, he realizes they are still stuck there—no gas for the car! The bikers are confronted by a costumed man who stands in the middle of the road. When they fail to tell him where Rory is, he shoots a beam of some sort of power that disintegrates them. He calls himself the Foolkiller, who “cleanses” the Earth of wrongdoers, and both Rory and Ted Sallis—aka the Man-Thing—are on his list of victims. Another is the swamps would be developer Schist, and he fires at a helicopter thinking he and Wickham are trying to escape (after having told Schist face to face he had a day to live). It is however, a rescue craft from a nearby flood, and the victims crash into the swamp. Several alligators approach the innocent people, and only the sudden appearance of the Man-Thing saves them. The Foolkiller briefly reconsiders his judgment of Sallis, but fires on him when he approaches. The Man-Thing eventually falls, apparently…dead. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: I’m not sure what to make of the Foolkiller. He seems to think he’s one of the good guys, or does he? No doubt it was he, disguised, who gives Ruth and Rory the tank of gas, but why, if he’s out to kill Rory too? Val Mayerik’s art is mixed; the two-pager with Manny fighting the crocs is great. Some interesting character development, but not as good as most of the issues so far. I’m not really buying the end of our friend, Manny.

Matthew: Another issue, another intriguing concept, in this case the Foolkiller, a persona with several incarnations who far outlived Gerber’s Marvel tenure and, according to Wikipedia, was inspired by the same Southern legend that spawned an O. Henry story and a novel by Helen Eustis, the latter filmed with Anthony Perkins. His penchant for popping up and blowing people away made me wonder if he were a Gerberian take on the Punisher, yet everyone’s favorite vigilante was only introduced a month earlier, so the Punisher-mania we now take for granted hadn’t had time to take hold, and his m.o. isn’t all that similar. As with the Hulk, Abel replaces Sal Trapani as Manny’s inker, but that bothers me less here, and Val’s two-pager blew me away.

Mark: Man-Thing must be the most passive title character in comics' history; he mainly reacts to the people and world around him, not surprising given his less than Mensa-level intelligence barely throws off enough wattage to toast a marshmallow. Thus it's surprising to see him take the initiative to open this month's installment and go on offense, blowing by the ax-wielding construction crew to attack his tormentors, construction king Schist and mad scientist Wickham, flinging them into the swamp before destroying the Tuff-Shed torture box where he almost bit it last ish. It'll be interesting to see if this new Alpha side of Manny's "personality" continues to emerge.

Our biker couples, having bid farewell to sadsack Richard Rory and his new gal-pal Ruth, motor off toward the Big Easy. Alas, their Easy Rider itinerary is cut short when they encounter the Fool-Killer (winner of the On The Nose Villain Name of the Year), who may dress like a gay Halloween pirate, but his "sacred crusade" of anti-fool purification is deadly serious, as the smoking corpses of our bikers can attest.

Scott: A costumed villain like the Fool Killer seems out of place in a title like this. Man-Thing is more in his element meting out ironic justice to idiots stuck in his ghastly swamp. Instead, we get this dude who would look more appropriate in a Don Heck-drawn issue of The Avengers. Rich Rory continues to beef and complain, making him still fairly unlikable. The art is mediocre, but somehow the deaths of the bikers still feels pretty strong. Another middling issue.

Chris: The Foolkiller has a bulletproof internal logic, which makes him chillingly entertaining; “I have found you to be a fool; I am the Foolkiller; ergo, you must die!” It would be easy to dismiss this posturing as an empty threat (particularly in a comic book), but Steve doesn’t refrain from having FK carry out his pronouncements (when Foolkiller returns – for some reason – in Defenders #74-75, he comes off as an irritating crank, cleansed of his deadly capabilities). The FK’s execution of the bikers is marred only by the hilarious notion that there’s no way for them to stop before they reach him, but there’s plenty of time to talk about him, and an entire page for FK to present his justification for their elimination (plus, guys, you’re riding bikes, and he’s standing in the middle of the road – you can’t swerve around him?).

Man-Thing is awakened not only by the sound of the helicopter crash, but also by the intense stirring of the passengers’ emotions. You’d think that M-T might be repulsed by their fear, and to seek to burn it out; instead, he responds to the rageful intent of the encroaching gators. What mechanism in M-T’s brain-semblance motivates him to protect the defenseless, despite their caustic emotional state? We don’t know, and Steve’s not telling, which only serves to keep the character compelling, and original. 

Chris: Prof Scott fave Jack Abel is on inks for this issue and the next; his style has always been too dry for me, especially when you’re dealing with muck and ooze, but the inks seem to work okay here. Mayerik presents his share of arresting visuals, such as: the construction workers’ attack across three panels (bottom of pg 3), which creates a sense of M-T moving away to the right of the page; FK’s purposeful look (pg 14, panel 4; pg 19, panel 4); the sharp, white-hot sting of FK’s murders of the bikers (pg 15, 16); the eerie sight of M-T at rest (pg 19, top); and of course the ferocious gator-battle (pg 26-27). But, there are a few pieces that don’t quite work, such as pg 6 panel 5, where Manny looks more like a gorilla as he’s hoisting his enemies overhead.

Mark: Jack Abel's inks – which frankly never made an impression on me – I think he was stable-mates with Herb T on Hulk for a long stretch – work wonders on Val Mayerik's art. V.M. has a magic touch with Manny; but his people oft-look like Charlton rejects. Not this time. Maybe it's a one off, but the book has never looked better.

The Fool-Killer is a wound-up whack-job who could only have sprung from Steve Gerber's fevered imagination. He passes out business cards to his intended victims (Schist is on the kill list), a thoughtful head's up that they have 24 hours to repent the sin of foolishness before they get the Big Sizzle from Foolie's ray-gun. He's on a murderous mission from God and, oh yeah, he knows Manny was once scientist Ted Sallis, which makes ex-Ted King Fool, numero uno on the hit list for working "to make man a pollution-breathing creature!"

But FK's radar goes haywire, 'cause the helicopter he downs doesn't contain the fleeing Schist, but freshly-evacuated flood victims, and to further get Foolie's spandex in a twist, he watches despised Manny Mud-Pie save the survivors from being gator-bait. FK decides to spare him but, having none of it, Manny shambles forward, only to fall before the "White Fire" of the fool blaster.

Who knows what next month's daunting deconstruction holds, but with Gerber at the controls, only a fool would miss it.

Marvel Spotlight 14
The Son of Satan in
"Ice and Hellfire!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Jim Mooney and Sal Trapani
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by John Romita

Daimon’s chariot returns to Fire Lake, following a night of restless flight for the Son of Satan. Daimon unexpectedly receives an invitation to St Louis’ Gateway University; a phone conversation with Gateway’s Dr Katherine Reynolds convinces him of the school’s genuine need for an exorcist. Daimon exacts a promise that Dr Reynolds will not interfere with his efforts. Daimon waits until nightfall to assess whether the college’s communications building might be infested, and is rewarded with a sneak attack by an ice demon; Daimon finds himself dragged to Boreas, an ice dimension ruled by Ikthalon. What’s worse – Daimon’s trident falls from his grasp, and is left behind back at the college. Ikthalon traps Daimon in a – well, an ice cube, and departs to “create another age of darkness on the earth!” Ikthalon and his chilly minions are stopped dead inside by the ankh Daimon had wisely inscribed on the front stoop of the building, until a well-meaning janitor clears it off. Dr Reynolds had arrived with the janitor, and she grabs the trident to fend off the ice demons’ attack. The trident’s connection with a being of intelligence allows Daimon to channel himself away from Boreas. Ikthalon threatens harm to Dr Reynolds, unless Daimon breaks off his attack. Daimon yields, only to scorch Ikthalon as soon as the demon’s back is turned, “as is the privilege of the deceiver’s son!” Daimon strikes Dr Reynolds for failing to respect her agreement with him; he then proceeds to fly away. -Chris Blake

Chris Blake: This issue provides a useful change of setting for Daimon, as Gateway will provide a company of supporting characters for the next several issues; otherwise, we might see more of D as he’s brooding and napping in his stately lakeside mansion (complete with tri-equine hell-chariot, at rest somewhere under the lake). The contest with Ikthalon is significant, in that it points ahead to encounters with other paranormal creatures – in other words, we aren’t going to have to worry about this becoming another mag that relies too often on yet another run-in with Mr Bubba Beelza.

Steve provides a few useful clarifications of Daimon’s powers, and persona: D already has established a reputation (in certain circles) as an exorcist; the trident serves as the best bag of tricks this side of Felix the Cat – e.g., D can channel hellfire thru the trident to provide short-distance flight; even when D transforms to SoS, he retains D’s conscience, which Satan could not expunge; but, D’s dark side remains close to the surface, as it allows him to act with treachery to his foes, and with condescension to those he perceives as weak (as evidenced by the slap to Dr Reynolds at the end).

Daimon tells us that the transformation to SoS has been occurring since he was thirteen; well, in the previous issue (scripted by Gary Friedrich), we saw D’s first exposure to his hell-spawned power when he was age twenty-one. There will continue to be some confusion over this aspect of the character, and if memory serves, Steve eventually will settle on eighteen as the debut of Daimon’s devilish deportment. Dig?

Sal Trapani provides useful inks for Mooney’s uninspired pencils. The interior of the supposedly-possessed classroom building looks like . . . well, like nothing more than a few empty rooms – no atmosphere. Ikthalon looks less like a millennial-old demon, and more like the Shogun Warrior your older brother spray-painted silver after he stole it from your hiding place. The ice dimension is nothing special either, glimpsed only as a few frozen crags and stalagmites. I will properly credit Mooney/Trapani for the dramatic entrance of the hell-chariot (pg 2-3), but that’s about all.

Matthew: This month, Gerber trades the Sub-Mariner, whose book he leaves three issues before cancellation, for the Son of Satan, while Mooney (inked here by Hulk/Man-Thing vet Trapani) is now penciling both of the supernatural strips Gary Friedrich created in this title. Each features a protagonist who undergoes a demonic nightly transformation, but giving Daimon something more to do than square off against his old man every issue—in this case tackling a one-shot villain with an interesting concept—helps them begin to differentiate the characters. So, too, does the introduction of Katherine Reynolds, from the fictional Gateway University in Steve’s native St. Louis, who will be a regular fixture for the duration of Daimon’s Spotlight run.

Joe: I don't have a lot to say about this mediocre issue except that I love Hellstorm's attitude, the Ice Demon was lame, Ozzy is up next issue and I can't believe someone says "Holy Spit".......I had to re-read that five times!

Marvel Team-Up 19
The Amazing Spider-Man and Ka-Zar in
"The Coming of... Stegron the Dinosaur Man!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by David Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Parachuting from a S.H.I.E.L.D. transport plane into the Savage Land, Spidey recalls how Curt Connors asked him to find his assistant, Dr. Vincent Stegron, who stole the only sample of their extract from dinosaur tissue supplied by Ka-Zar. Saving Spidey from a horde of dinosaurs, Ka-Zar reveals that he has heard Stegron is among the swamp-men, but they are captured and taken to the Dinosaur Man. Stegron plans to reinstate the dinosaurs as rulers of the earth, attacking New York aboard a flying ark supplied by the mysterious “They”; our heroes escape from the misguided swamp-men, and as Ka-Zar and Zabu turn a stampede of dinosaurs that threatens their village, Spider-Man hitches a ride on a pterodactyl to board the departing ark. -Matthew Bradley

Mathew: Me like. I’m partial to the MTU format of the two-parter with different guest-stars, and speaking of teams, while I’ve never made any secret of my general aversion to Ka-Zar, reuniting him with Spidey, Kane, and Giacoia from Amazing Spider-Man #103-4 is an excellent return to form after last issue’s Torch/Hulk departure. Wouldn’t necessarily call this “the villain-event of the year,” as the splash page does (not that I have a counter-nominee offhand), but I’ve always been fond of Steggy, especially his return appearance in the “War of the Reptile-Men” from Amazing #165-6. The story is well-paced—which I’m starting to realize that not all comics are—and Len handles the dialogue, narration, and characterizations well…plus we get a follow-up reference to “They.”

Scott: This one was another I read in a Treasury Edition. Gil Kane's pencils are pretty ugly again. How the mighty have fallen. He's a long way from his work on Green Lantern. Ka-Zar continues to elicit yawns. No matter how many times they haul him out, Marvel will never convince me he's a good character.

Joe: Spidey missing Gog? Or is Gil Kane satisfying a jones to draw the Savage Land again? Don't get me wrong, I remember this one vividly from my pre-teen years, but it just seems so average after all these years. Kane's art is fine, Wein's script is OK, just something's ruining my fond memories of this ish. The splash page hit the instant "REMEMBER ME" button, but the rest not so much. Stegron's a fine villain, but things seem a bit too convenient methinks. And why does he want to go to New York? What did we ever do to him?

Marvel Two-In-One 2
The Thing and The Sub-Mariner in
"Manhunters from the Stars!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by John Romita

Falling from the sky near Hydrobase, Wundarr is rescued by Namorita, then leaps away when mistaken for an intruder by Namor, whom Nita persuades to try to assist him; Tuumar and Zeneg observe from orbit, planning to use a robot assassin to prevent Wundarr from avenging his father, Hektu, who wrongly predicted the destruction of their planet, Dakkam. Brooding after a martial-arts movie with Johnny, Ben sees the confused man-child fall amid Times Square traffic and, misunderstanding the ensuing chaos, battles him until Namor arrives. The Dakkamites interrupt their fight to attack Wundarr, uniting them against a common foe, and after the Mortoid’s destruction drives them off, the Atlanteans leave Wundarr with an irate Ben. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: One reason I’ve always been favorably disposed toward MTIO is that this final cluster issue for the month got me in almost on the ground floor, and with Gerber not only winding up his stint on Subby’s mag concurrently but also having recently introduced Wundarr in Fear, it demonstrates how he and Englehart now dominate Marvel’s writing staff. In the event, Kane’s tenure on the strip turned out to be no longer than Starlin’s, with two issues apiece; he pencils both team-up books this month, and then will be succeeded intermittently on both by Sal Buscema. Perusing this for the umpteenth time in 40 years, I still find it a cracking good read, disappointed only by its hasty conclusion and the fact that Namor, under unusually light inks by Sinnott, looks dodgy.

Scott: A warmed over Marvel Team-Up-type story, complete with Gil Kane at the pencil. The third panel on page 7 made me weak with laughter at the risqué comments which came to mind when I saw it. Hard to get through, impossible to remember. A dud.

Chris: I’m willing to bet that Wundarr makes more appearances in MTIO than any other mag, since (a few years down the road) he turns up again when the Thing is fulfilling community service at Project Pegasus. Steve ties up the loose end of Wundarr’s previous appearance from Fear #17, as Wunddarr now is established in the Marvel mainstream (it’ll be interesting to see what the Thing decides to do with him). The action moves along briskly, and I’m grateful for the fact that the seemingly inevitable Thing-Namor clash is kept brief. The Dakkamites provide some very welcome, unforced humor – their hope that someone else might destroy Wundarr for them comes across as an interstellar hope that they might be able to knock off work a little early today. Also amusing is how easily their Mandroid (oh I’m sorry, it’s called a Mortoid? -my mistake) is dispatched, once Ben and Namor join forces – with that, the Dakkamites are (wisely) outta here. A thoroughly satisfying one-shot issue.

Kane brings an energetic approach to the street-fight action. Kane captures Ben’s bulky physicality well, and if his depiction of the Thing’s facial features isn’t consistently on-target, at least Sinnott is on hand to clear him up (for example, the panel at the bottom of pg 18 seems to have Joltin’ Joe’s fingerprint). If there had been an opportunity to keep this team on this title, the result might’ve been a slightly different look for one of Marvel’s signature characters, which I would’ve welcomed. 

The Savage Sub-Mariner 69
"Two Worlds and Dark Destiny"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by George Tuska and Vnce Colletta
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Charlotte Jetter
Cover by John Romita

Namor is in New York to retrieve a force field device to protect his people from poisonous gases that have polluted the sea. Spider-Man spies Subby, so he questions him about his visit. After giving Spidey the lowdown on what's been going on in Atlantis recently, he goes on his way. After visiting Dr. Walthers in the hospital he is informed that the villain 'Force,' has the only force field device that's left. Namor finds Force on a rampage in the city. He easily defeats his inferior opponent and takes the force field contraption back to his people. It's a happy day as, once again, Namor saves everyone from death. Also, during this adventure, the rebels from Zephyrland are aided by Dr. Strange as they save their home from the She-Beast's spell by using music. -Tom McMillion

Tom: You mean to tell me that the Marvel bullpen didn't think that advertising the further adventures in Zephyrland, or the titanic battle between Namor and the pathetic Force, on the front cover of this issue would be enough to sell copies? So that's why they mislead the youngsters with a cover of Subby fighting Spider-Man in an epic battle instead? I'm shocked and disappointed. For shame Marvel, for shame.

Marvel's artists officially run
out of villain costumes and borrow
Daimajin from Daiei
Matthew: Of the parallel plot threads he has strung out over his run on this title, Gerber at least ties up the Zephyrland string conclusively on his way out the door, with a little help from a visiting mage; in fact, for all of their respective effects on the outcomes, the misleading cover should have featured Doc instead, but Spidey obviously sells more copies. The other is more of a split decision, for while Steve abandons the sinking ship with Namor a fish out of water and his people comatose, he does leave the latter under a protective dome. On any given Sunday, Tuska and Colletta can turn in a respectable issue of Iron Man, yet they are better suited to Shellhead than Subby, with the already forgettable Force looking positively amateurish in page 22, panel 5.

Chris: There’s not much you can say for a comic when its cover is, by far, its best feature. There’s so much room for disappointment here, starting with the desperate con job of the (admittedly Jazzy) cover itself, since the only purpose Spidey serves is to lend an expository ear (hey Roy – Dr Strange is here for about three panels – why not put him on the cover, too -?).

You’d think that Steve might’ve made something of a Subby + Spidey issue (as he had this month in MTIO, with Subby + Thing), but instead Steve keeps changing the channel to tune in to post-hippie Zephyrland, where music and love will change the world, man. Then we have Namor’s ridiculous bullrush through the ESU medical center entrance – c’mon now, I realize he’s under some pressure, but even on his worst day, Subby’s not this stupid. There’s more drifting around (an entire page is devoted to Namor taking a plunge in Central Park), until we finally get the rematch with Force, which is over in three pages. Missed opportunity, from the very start.

As for the art – think about this: featured artists on this title have included the Hall of Fame names of John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Gene Colan, and Bill Everett; now, we’re left with Tuska/Colletta. This, to me, is another indication that Roy is resigned to having to sell the office furniture, sack the staff, and look for new tenants to assume the lease.

The Mighty Thor 221
"Hercules Enraged!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Mike Esposito
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by John Buscema

Thor arrives at Mt. Olympus, in a fury to battle Hercules, first dispatching the Greek guards that greet him. While Hercules himself bickers with Ares, God of War about the latter’s loyalty; Zeus draws their attention to the Thunder God’s approach. The Prince of Power and God of Thunder have a humdinger battle, but why? When Thor and company had returned from the mission to the Black Stars, Odin showed them a vision most foul: Hercules, side by side with Pluto, Lord of the Netherworld, and the missing Krista (Hildegarde’s sister) shackled in chains. Zeus correctly reasons there’s been a mistake. What no one knows-yet-is that Ares has a hand in it all, working with Pluto to set the two Pantheons against each other. -Jim Barwise

Jim: A fight with Thor and Hercules is kind of a guilty pleasure for me, harkening back to my vote for the best issues of the 1960’s, Journey Into Mystery #124-Thor #130, although Herc has appeared in other titles since then. I question Thor so blindly going into battle; it seems more like something his father would do. John Buscema shows us why he rivals Kirby as this title’s best artist. The two-pager in Hades with Pluto, Hercules and Krista is a stunner.

Matthew: The Buscema/Romita cover looks so doggone familiar that I coulda sworn this was a cluster issue, but in reviewing the story I don’t recognize it; obviously, the cover is so sensational it made a big impression on me. The interiors—superbly inked by Esposito—live up to it, with those spectacular full- and two-page shots, reminding us of Big John’s brilliant Hercules circa Avengers #50, and even Gerry satisfyingly resolves the MARMIS. Too bad our resident expert, Professor Joe, is 40 years too late to join the Special Name-That-Sound-Effect No-Prize Contest, but while we’re on the subject of commingling word and image, what’s with the illo of the properly red-haired Zeus, paired with a caption calling him “the white-maned lord of Olympus?”

Scott: Finally the Colonizers of Rigel are out of the story, as is the useless Silas Grant. Immediately following, Thor is all too happy to believe Hercules has betrayed him and others, not once considering that - juuuust maybe - another being has assumed his form. He looks like an idiot for jumping to this conclusion and having no real loyalty of his own to a fellow god with whom he felt brotherly kinship. Hell, Thor defended Loki more quickly in the past. After multiple pages wasted on a useless battle, Thor is quickly told he has been deceived and Hercules accepts his quick apology. Honestly, if this title wasn't so bad already, I'd say this was the worst issue in years. But it's really just par for the course. 

The Tomb of Dracula 18
"Enter: Werewolf by Night"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane, John Romita, and Tom Palmer

Jack Russell, also known as 'The Werewolf by Night,' is on a trip to Transylvania, along with his lady friend Topaz, seeking a cure for Jack's hellish condition. At a hotel and tavern, a drunken lech makes an overaggressive pass at Topaz. After getting punched by Jack, the man backs down, but vows revenge later. When the lech goes to their room, he is attacked by Jack, now in his werewolf form. Jack kills the man, so Topaz talks him in to leaving with her. The murder is witnessed by Dracula. Hunting for some prey, he tries to attack Topaz, but the powerful bewitching gaze she emits from her eyes stops him in pain. Dracula throws the werewolf aside and leaves to look for easier game. Back in Paris, Quincy Harker finds the body of his old teammate, Blade, apparently dead from his last encounter with Dracula. Quincy pulls out a stake and is about to drive it through Blade's heart so he doesn't become an undead creature. Later on, Jack Russell and Topaz visit a manor that once belonged to Jack's father, where they find a hidden tunnel that leads to the front of Dracula's castle. When he finds a telescope, Jack discovers that his father was spying on Dracula so he wants to investigate further. Dracula himself has been preparing his fresh coffins to ship back to England so that he can return there. When he observes the couple approaching, Dracula swoops in and takes Topaz back to his castle in an attempt to learn about the power behind her mysterious gaze. The newly transformed werewolf bursts in to make the save but Drac is able to get the upper hand during the fight. The story ends with Dracula about to bite down on the werewolf. -Tom McMillion

Tom: I cringed when I saw Jack Russell make his cameo appearance last issue. I've never been a big fan of Werewolf by Night, a horrid series compared to this one. All in all though, this issue wasn't that bad. I hope we get information regarding Drac's wife in the future as he briefly mused about her this issue. The Dracula versus Werewolf battle is hard to get excited about since both creatures have their own series so you know neither of them will most likely least not permanently. It's kind of like the monster equivalent of Captain America going up against Spider-Man.

Scott: Easily the best issue I've read in this month's pile of lackluster stories. The long-awaited battle between Dracula and the Werewolf does not disappoint. Topaz proves very difficult for Dracula to control and Gene Colan handles most of these pages deftly (only the heavy inks which mar page 30 take away from the excellence). The only real head scratcher was how Jack recovered from the "bloody, bone crunching" fall from Dracula's throw. The story picks up 20 hours later and Jack is just dandy. The quick reminder that Blade has been "killed" tantalizes us until next issue.

Mark: The cover promises a new MMMS: "Marvel's Most Macabre a battle of the monsters!" The sister-book tub-thumping ain't subtle as Werewolf By Night is name-checked in the title, but carnival barker promotion has always been part of Marvel's charm, and the story delivers the fur-flying, fang-baring action.

Other than in Marvel Team-Up and the like back in the day (i.e. pre-history: not only was there no internet, class, but you had to dial a phone number one digit at a time, on a phone that had a cord! Attached to a wall!), Wolfie never really crossed my path. Jack Russell doesn't seem particularly haunted by his nocturnal transformations, nor particularly interesting. Girlfriend Topaz is more compelling; not only can she calm Jack when he goes tooth, fang, and claw, but her monster-whispering actually works on the Count his bad self! When you can snake-charm the five hundred year old Lord of the Damned by just batting your baby blues, girl, you've got my attention.

Chris: Intriguing change of pace for ToD, as casual readers of WbN are introduced to the Werewolf storyline, without losing track of this title’s star attraction. Extra points to Marv for devising a credible way for Drac and the Werewolf to cross paths – after all, it’s not like we can expect to see the Prince of Vampires in Los Angeles anytime soon, right? (“eh – don’t be so sure,” says the Hollywood producer at the next table.) Marv also makes the right decision when he elects to have the Werewolf (a monster with razor-sharp claws and fangs) kill the knife-wielding drunk; too often, in his own mag, the Werewolf slashes at people, but rarely seems to harm anyone. As Prof Joe has pointed out, many of the casualties in WbN are due to unforeseen mishap or villain miscalculation, rather than an overt act by the monster himself. Readers are reminded that the Werewolf is capable of a truly savage act, which brings him closer to Dracula’s capability for death-dealing, and makes their impending conflict more enticing.

Chris: The huge hole in the back wall of Russoff Manor, and the Manor’s location right next door to Castle Dracula, both are a bit much – couldn’t the diary have given Jack a clue that would have led him to some outdoor vantage point, away across town from the manor, that Jack’s father had used to observe Dracula’s lair?

Of course I enjoy the Colan/Palmer depiction of the Werewolf – what did you think I was gonna say about it? Believe me, if this art team ever slips, I’ll let you know. Until then, enjoy the Werewolf slamming the drunk to the turf (pg 14, panel 3), the shadow-cast monster brawl (pg 30-31), and of course, Drac’s slavering jaws and dead-shark eyes, from the Werewolf’s POV (pg 32, last panel). Talk about a cliffhanger! Good thing chapter two also is on sale this month!

Mark: There's a quick three panel tease of Harker preparing to stake the freshly-drained Blade in the Paris catacombs, then we rejoin Jack & Topaz checking into Ye Olde Rustic Inn, complete with drunken lout to paw the hot blond out-a-towner. First rebuffed by Jack's roundhouse right, old "Scratcher" decides to go all rapey at knife-point and, this being a full moon, gets his guts Werewolf-strewn across the cobblestone street for his troubles. Then off to Russoff Manor, where Jack plums the mystery of his dear dead dad and finds a passageway leading to Castle Dracula, which, being particularly next door, hardly required the old secret-passage-behind-the-bookcase gimmick. In his hurry to unleash the monster mash, writer Wolfman resorts to clichés that TOD normally avoids. Still, it's hard not to cackle along with the Count as he relishes being back on home turf. Not skimping on the action, Marv and Gene serve up two marquee fang-fests. The first is cut short by Topaz's power, the second in Drac's digs, is wonderfully backlit by looming, spookhouse shadows and ends with the Count in mid-lunge...

...and a blurb pimping "the most senses-shattering" conclusion Werewolf By Night #15! Step right up! And I'm there, hectoring the Dean for a copy!

Enjoy the carnie, kids.

Werewolf by Night 15
"Death of a Monster!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Chiaramonte
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Mike Ploog

Picking up from Tomb of Dracula #18, Werewolf and Dracula battle at Castle Dracula, until the vampire feels a power pulling him away, which leads the hairy anti-hero to throw him of the balcony, but Drac turns into a bat and flies off—but not before having a little late-night snack. Topaz appears to take Werewolf/Jack away, just as Frank Drake & Rachel Van Helsing fly in on a chopper which Drac nearly crashes. Jack and Topaz unlock the secrets of his father’s diary, which relays the tale of great, great, great (whew) grandfather Gregory Russoff, who was the first member of the family to be stricken with the lycanthropy curse. After his wife was killed by Dracula, he takes revenge on the vampire, but is bitten by werewoman Lydia! Rachel is attacked by mist-Dracula, but he leaves, seeking only the diary and the hidden Second Book of Sins within. Third Night, and the beast now has the mind of Jack Russell using Topaz’s powers, but is losing against Drac until the toothy one spots the diary—but Van Helsing appears, nabbing the book, escaping on the chopper with Drac in bat pursuit, leaving our Werewolf watching from the sidelines, with no answers to how to relieve his curse. –Joe Tura

Joe: Will it affect my tenure if I admit I didn’t and won’t read the first part of this crossover? No? Whew….OK, I’m slightly lost, kind of like being absent for the first part of a lesson plan, but so what, it’s only WWBN, right? No, this one is slightly important. And I say that because of the rising popularity (especially amongst my fellow faculty) of TOD. Wait, what am I saying? Why cause extra work and risk a bad performance review at semester’s end? Am I as much as a masochist as Jack Russell can be at times, throwing himself headlong into crazy situations? At least he finally has a steady “nursemaid” in the sultry Topaz, who seems to be the only person—meaning female—able to control the Werewolf, most likely due to subliminal feelings from Horny Jack. Or it’s her powers. Nah, it’s Horny Jack….

A decent issue that moves along so fast I have no idea what’s going on. Ploog is great as usual, and my favorite touch is the stream of saliva/blood coming from Drac’s maw on the splash page. Ewwwwwww….And the face on the Drac Bat on page 5 is so hilarious I can’t stop looking at it—he even has great hair! You really root for Jack & Topaz to stay together since poor Jackie needs some kind of nice break to go his way. Am I starting to enjoy Werewolf By Night? Am I in for bitter disappointment when Ploog leaves again? (Whaaaaaa!!!) Am I just trying to put off reading Ka-Zar? All of the above!

Hey, it’s a Morbius Marvel Value Stamp! Wheeeee! And better yet, next month promises The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a red-letter comic book in the life of young Prof. Tura! (More in two weeks, but here’s a sneak preview: Root Canal!)

Scott: An interesting comparison of styles in this cross-over epic battle with Dracula. Here, the narrative takes over from Jack's point of view, with his voice providing the descriptions. Mike Ploog does Dracula fairly well and his art is always a joy to behold. It's a fun conclusion, with intervention by Drake and Rachel halting the battle, but it's made clear that Jack was in over his head. Dracula is simply too powerful. Yet, the star of his own title must live, so it ends inconclusively. All good fun.

Mark: Had this been 1973, the Bullpen's cross-promotion strategy would be a success, shaking twenty extra shekels from my out-turned pockets to follow the Count over to WBN for the howl at the moon conclusion of Monster Mash I. Wolfman and Ploog avoid a MCD flameout, but the thrill/chill ratio is far too low to overcome choppy editing, Topaz's deus ex machina powers and the amazing, self-repairing helicopter.

Editing: we cut from Jack and Topaz to Frank and Rachel, pgs. 17-18, seemingly having the same conversation, and the couples' similar appearance doubles down on the confusion. Either Marv was going for a tricky effect (that failed), or he forgot to include a scene-switching blurb and no one spotted the error.

Topaz's power intrigued me in TOD, but the second helping seems too convenient. She not only stops the Drac attack when he's about to deliver a killing blow (pg. 3), but serves as a psychic lock-pick for Jack's great great grandpap's diary. She slices & dices, but wait there's more...

Drac rips up the controls of Frank & Rachel's 'copter, but apparently his super-strength trashing is only equivalent of slightly lowering the tire pressure on my Mustang. I can still drive; Frank and Rach can still fly away. Sure.

And while I know Mike Ploog mostly by rep, I can't believe this is his top-shelf stuff. Compared to Dean Gene on TOD, Ploog's workmanlike effort is as about dazzling as a vampire's reflection in a mirror.

Can I get my twenty cents back?

Chris: I think we all know that the conflict with Dracula isn’t going to be a “Fight to the Finish,” as the cover blurb entices us – it’s more of a “Fight til it’s Finished” – but Part II of the crossover still is satisfying. Drac might not agree, as he’s foiled a number of different ways this time. Topaz is of great help to Jack, as she forces Drac away, then charms the diary open, and finally empowers Jack to “guide” the Werewolf in the fight (no simple kidnap bait, this Topaz – play your cards right, and you might keep her around, Jack).

Marv is clever enough to devise a credible shared history for Drac and Jack’s ancestral wolf-family. Bonus points also for Marv’s decision to provide Jack with connection with, and some control over, the Werewolf’s power, which brings a different vibe to their rematch. Nice touch as Marv describes Jack’s moment of revel in “lust for the inhuman energy” coursing through him – the Jack/Werewolf dyad will be explored further in this title’s run.

Ploog’s art is as enjoyable as ever; although, I will say that I wish that the atmosphere had been darker (I voiced a similar reservation with the Buscema/Verpoorten art for Frankenstein #9), and a few panels of Drac’s face look rushed to me – not nearly as creepy as I’d expect from Ploog. Lastly, I wasn’t aware that Rachel was able to employ Yondu’s yaka arrow to retrieve the diary (pg. 30) – nice shooting there, Rache!

Also This Month

Beware #7
Chamber of Chills #9
Crazy #3
Crypt of Shadows #9
Kid Colt Outlaw #180
Marvel's Greatest Comics #48
Marvel Spectacular #6
Marvel Super-Heroes #42
Marvel Tales #50
Marvel Triple Action #17
Mighty Marvel Western #30
Rawhide Kid #119
Sgt. Fury #118
Where Monsters Dwell #27

March 1974 also saw the debut of the extremely popular Marvel Value Stamps (or as buyers of vintage Marvel Comics on eBay call them, "the black plague." Who knew, 40 years ago, that these funny books would be worth so much money but worthless with one little square cut out of them? In all, 100 such stamps would see the light of print in all manner of Marvel titles. A fun and exhaustive rundown on the phenomenon can be found here.


Tales of the Zombie 4
Cover by Boris Vallejo

“The Law and Phillip Bliss”
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Pablo Marcos

“James Bond Meets Baron Samedi or
Live and Let Die Revisited”
Text by Don McGregor

“The Drums of Doom”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Rich Buckler, Vic Martin & Win Mortimer

Text by Lin Carter

“Courtship by Voodoo”
By Tony Isabella
Art by Ron Wilson

“Nightfilth Rising”
By Doug Moench
Art by Win Mortimer

“Four Daughters of Satan”
Story by John Albano
Art by Ernie Chua

“Dead Man’s Judgment: The Law and Philip Bliss Part 2”
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Pablo Marcos

“The Zombie Feature Page”

Welcome to the first reprint-free issue of Tales of the Zombie, as every story is new. But as we shall discover, sometimes “new” and “improved” don’t always go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

In “The Law and Phillip Bliss,” the Zombie is still motionless at the edge of the sea cliff where he tossed the undead body of Moira Mason. The vengeful Priestess Katanya and her followers arrive and apply a brutal beating to the living corpse. After the unfeeling Zombie refuses to stay down, Katanya uses a Devil Doll to finally inflict crippling pain on the thing former known as Simon Garth. Katanya’s men toss the Zombie off the cliff to his supposed doom. Back in New Orleans, Philip Bliss, a homeless man who has a vendetta against lawyers, shows the other Amulet of Damballah to a coffee shop waitress. She warns him that it has the power to call the dead from their graves. Jokingly, Bliss summons the Zombie. In “Dead Man’s Judgment,” Part 2 of the story, the Zombie rises and shambles off across the ocean floor to answer Bliss’s comical call. After throttling a few sailors at the New Orleans docks, the Zombie is drawn to the city courthouse where Bliss has been heckling lawyers and the crimelords they protect. The hotheaded hooligan soon realizes that the Amulet gives him power over the creeping cadaver. Bliss orders the ghoul to enter the courtroom and make all lawyers suffer. Even against a hail of bullets and a cloud of gas grenades, the Zombie completes his terrible task and walks away with Bliss, his new master.

"The Law and Phillip Bliss"
OK, I stand corrected: the Zombie can be damaged. During the beat down at the start of the two-part, 23-page tale, his hand is nearly severed by a machete. However, when he rises from the ocean floor to answer Bliss’s call, the Zombie is completely healed. It’s my instinct to call bullshit on that, but I guess I need to once again remind myself that this is a voodoo zombie, and so I shouldn’t assume it will follow the more familiar rules put down by George Romero and Lucio Fulci. Though poor Fulci did have a severed zombie head launching itself from a cooler in one of his movies, so I’m probably over thinking the issue. Still, it would be pretty wicked if the Zombie lurched around with a dangling right hand from now on out. Part One was fine, as Katanya’s crew is really quite vicious, stabbing, punching, and hacking away at a maniacal pace. But Part Two is terrifically dumb. Make the Zombie the pawn of some uninteresting and unhinged creep that hates lawyers because he thinks they caused his divorce and loss of employment? Really? That’s the best idea Gerber could come up with? What’s next, having the Zombie attack car salesmen because Bliss once bought a Ford Pinto?

"Nightfilth Rising"

The weakest Zombie installment so far is accompanied by the weakest selection of shorts as well, new or not. “The Drums of Doom” tells the tiresome tale of Dan Crawford, the cheapjack owner of Jupiter Films. After Crawford stiffs a voodoo expert that was working on his latest movie, the executive disappears, only to return as the skin on a conga drum. “Courtship by Voodoo” is a fairly useless one-pager about Egyptian zombies. Not sure why this is even included but I’d guess that Editor Roy Thomas came up a page short and this is the best that could scratched together on short notice. “Nightfilth Rising” features the best art — and easily the best title — but it’s nothing special. (Nightfilth Rising would be a good name for a Norwegian death metal band.) Scheming for an inheritance, a woman raises her dead husband to kill her current one, the man responsible for his murder. Her devious plot works, but she is foiled when a police officer shows up at the front door with her delinquent son. In “Four Daughters of Satan,” a sexy gang of murderous women escape from prison and make their way to the house of ancient Aunt Martha, planning to steal her hidden fortune. But the spinster is not so helpless, killing them off one by one and selling their cadavers to a graverobber at the end. I never heard of writer John Albano before, but since he seemed to work mainly for DC, that makes sense. In all, a lousy lot of backup stories.

"Four Daughters of Satan"

The text pieces show more effort but still left me a bit flat. In “James Bond Meets Baron Samedi or Live and Let Die Revisited,” Don McGregor has little good to say about the latest Bond film. It’s a natural movie to review since there’s voodoo involved, but McGregor is so unrelentingly snarky it’s a chore to get through the 7-page, photo-filled editorial. He does compare the movie to Fleming’s novel — there really are none by the way — so Professor Matthew might enjoy that aspect. Lin Carter, the prolific author famous for his “posthumous collaborations” with Robert E. Howard, offers “Neo-Witchcraft,” a history of the dark arts through the ages. It’s a dense, well-written, 4-page piece, which seems pretty thorough. It’s enhanced by movie stills, one from 1961’s The Mask, a personal fave. This nifty little picture has 3-D sequences: an ominous voice announces “Put the mask on now” when those scenes are coming up, an alert to don your paper glasses. It’s just great. Things finally wrap up with “The Zombie Feature Page,” a cheerful profile of Peruvian Tales of the Zombie artist Pablo Marcos. -Thomas Flynn

Dracula Lives! 5
Cover by Luis Dominguez

Story by Roy Thomas
Adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker
Art by Dick Giordano
Letters by Joe Rosen

"Transylvania on a Budget"
Text by Doug Moench

"Dracula, Prince of Darkness"
Movie Review by Doug Moench

"A Duel of Demons"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Frank Springer

"Demons in Darkness"
A Text Story by Gerry Conway
Spot Art by Pablo Marcos

"Coffin Chronicles"
Media news by Carla Joseph

"When a Vampire Dies..."
Story Uncredited
Art Uncredited
(reprinted from Marvel Tales #128, November 1954)

"The Dracula Archives"
Book Review by Chris Claremont

"Night Flight to Terror!
Story by Tony Isabella
From an Idea by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Pablo Marcos


Sent to Transylvania on business, solicitor Jonathan Harker must brave perpetually late trains, superstitious villagers, and giant wolves in the Borgo Pass before he at last stands before the castle where he's to meet his employer. With an eerie creak, the heavy door of the estate opens and Harker, for the first time, lays eyes on Count Dracula! Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano's ambitious plan to adapt Bram Stoker's classic novel gets off to a largely yawn-inducing start. That may be due to the familiarity of the source material but it may also have to do with the fact that nothing really happens. Why Thomas would want to spend a whole lot of time and Marvel money on creating a new version of a novel that had been filmed dozens of times is anyone's guess. Was there really a clamor for a faithful adaptation of a 75-year old book from the Marvel masses? Not from where I was standing (in 12-year old shoes); I remember hating this big chunk out of DL! back in the day and a 40 years-on-me really can't blame that dopey kid. It's tough to get through. Of course, the grand experiment would actually only see seven chapters (six in DL! and one in Legion of Monsters #1, September 1975) before the plug was pulled. Eventually, Roy and Dick got back together in 2005 to finish their "magnum opus." Meh. Give me Colan and Wolfman any day.

"A Duel of Demons"
The feud between Dracula and Cagliostro heats up in the court of Louis XVI. Cagliostro continually insults the vampire by sending henchmen out to do his dirty work. Dracula needs no such hired guns and goes to the man himself. After "A Duel of Demons," Cagliostro is knocked unconscious and The Prince of Darkness dines on his enemy's wife, transforming her into a vampire. These early adventures of Dracula are running hot and cold for me, this one very definitely on the frigid side thanks to a yawner of a script and amateurish artwork by Frank Springer. Dracula never looked so unintimidating. Cagliostro must have been having a bit of a renaissance in 1973 as he becomes the nemesis of not only Dracula but also of Doctor Strange as well.

"Night Flight to Terror"
Dracula enters the small town known as Tarnington, taking a room at a local Inn. The vampire is up to something nefarious but only Lucas Bane, who works at the inn, discovers what it it. A legend claims that demons exist under the soil up at the abandoned Jennings' Mill and obviously there must be something to those legends. Armed with a couple of crosses and a boatload of gumption, Lucas manages to stand up to Dracula and forces him to at least postpone his dastardly plan. I'm not a big fan of prose fiction in these Marvel mags but "Demons in Darkness" is at least readable (though I'll be damned if I can tell you what Drac's plan was once he resurrected those demons), much moreso than the Werewolf By Night piece that appeared in a recent issue of Monsters Unleashed. Even at the age of twelve, I wondered why the heck these guys would substitute nifty panels for a bunch of words. I'm still wondering who the proposed audience was.

A kindly vampire, assigned to a small village in Eastern Europe, is turned on by fools who have no idea what happens "When a Vampire Dies...". They learn very quickly after they've staked their resident Prince of Darkness that a more vicious creature takes his place. The story side of this pre-code reprint's not bad, bordering on "cute," but the art is just awful (and there's no one I can blame!), almost as primitive as kindergarten sketches, and the punch line's a little lazy.

"When a Vampire Dies..."

Count Dracula happens to be aboard a 747 that's hijacked by a disturbed young man who wants no ransom but only to "fly into the sunset until our fuel gives out..." The Count will have none of this and so attempts a negotiation that goes badly. The plane crashes in the Las Vegas desert, killing several aboard but not, serendipitously, the vampire and the hijacker. Seeking revenge for being put out on his journey, Dracula drains the man's blood then leaves him for the doctors. On the mend, the nut is wheeled out of the hospital into the full sun, where he immediately combusts. What starts out as a bad pastiche of The Night Stalker and Airport happily ends on a high note with a genuinely surprising climax. I can almost forget laughing out loud at the notion of Dracula in a 747, decked in his cape, fangs out, telling the stewardess he "does not drink... 7-Up" (the famous shot of Leslie Nielsen in Airplane!, stethoscope in his ears, as he's asked if he's a doctor, immediately came to mind). The cliched character bios ("Try to stop a madman? Not Angie Malatucci... he only wants to visit his parents in Italy before they die") threaten to bring the story down before the plane crashes but once the action hits the desert the narrative is a bit more tolerable. I've slagged Tony Isabella in the past for bad writing but, while he's no Marv Wolfman, "Night Flight to Terror" is enjoyable pulp fiction.

"Night Flight to Terror!" from the album "Smak av tentakkel" by 
the Norwegian death metal band Nightfilth Rising

Doug Moench contributes two text pieces, the first of which, a "travel guide to scenic Transylvania" is a waste of paper but his assessment of Chris Lee's sophomore Hammer/Dracula outing, Dracula, Prince of Darkness is a thought-provoking praise/damnation piece that blows away 90% of what passed for critical film commentary in the B&Ws. I found myself nodding in agreement with point after point, both positive and negative, Moench raises. It damn near pushed me to dig up my dvd of D,POD until I reminded myself what a hunk of crap that movie was. If I was to be asked why the non-fiction writing in the B&W line is so blah! (outside of a few pieces including the aforementioned Moench "appreciation"), I'd offer up the opinion that it's because when Marvel launched their line and decided they had to have film reviews, they relied on staff to fill the order. Unlike "real" genre journals like Famous Monsters, Photon, Little Shoppe of Horrors and Cinefantastique, Marvel already had a core of writers so they just assumed said scribes could pump out readable criticism. Why bother looking for real film journalists? Wrong! Hopefully, they will have learnt their lesson by the time they introduce Monsters of the Movies.

Chris Claremont chimes in with another of the bloated book reviews we've become numb to, this time Raymond Rudorff's The Dracula Archives (it's "a bummer," says Chris). Why this couldn't be condensed into a couple of paragraphs rather than running a full three pages is anyone's guess. Carla Joseph's new column, "Coffin Chronicles," is Marvel's answer to those features Forry ran in FM whenever he'd get news releases and free stills. A couple sentences attached to a proposed title. Joseph rummages through Variety, Publishers Weekly and, no doubt, Famous Monsters itself for any mentions of vampire books and films. It's certainly more enjoyable than Claremont's review and predicts the change in tone of the non-fiction to come in future issues of the B&Ws: less puns, more news and commentary. Amen to that, I says. First mention is made of the upcoming Satanic Rites of Dracula, a cursed project that would see Lee's final appearance as the Count and didn't find a distributor in the states until 1978 (as Count Dracula and His Vampire Brides), a sad swan song for the series. Joseph's selection of "Current Releases" is certainly interesting, including such contemporary films as Dracula (1931) and Nosferatu (1921).

In the trivia department, it's interesting to note that, though we label this as Issue #5, it's actually Vol. 2 No. 1 as indicated in the indicia and contents page. Why Marvel would break from their traditional "whole numbering" I have no idea, but traditions will win out beginning next issue. -Peter Enfantino

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