Wednesday, July 2, 2014

April 1974 Part Two: The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu Hit The Big Time!


The Invincible Iron Man 67
"Return of the Freak"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

Iron Man spares hundreds from a toppling air-conditioning assembly at S.I.’s biggest Detroit competitor, Gaines Motors, en route to the hospital, where Don Blake operates on Eddie. Tony decides to risk using the Enervator, hoping to give Eddie the strength to survive, but his precautions fail as it turns Eddie into the Freak, like Happy before him, and with Don’s cane buried in rubble, Iron Man must battle the Freak alone. A martial-arts blow to a vital nerve finally subdues Eddie, who returns to normal and is saved from his blood clot, although confined to a wheelchair; meanwhile, Roxie heads to Vietnam in search of Eddie’s M.I.A. brother, Marty. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew Bradley: Overall, this is just a middling issue, yet I’ve always found that splash page (above) really impressive, somehow even more so than the double spread that follows, even if the whole sequence is rather implausible. I’m afraid just having a new guy become the new Freak doesn’t really change the fact that Freak stories follow a pretty predictable pattern, and since the word “enervate” means to drain something or someone of energy, the name of the gizmo that keeps making this happen actually makes no sense whatsoever. Just asking, but is it racist that when Eddie—what Tuska would notoriously have called a “schvartze” (see Hero for Hire #8)—turns into the Freak, he sports those Zuni-doll teeth I don’t remember seeing on Freak Mark I, the not-so-Happy Hogan?

Scott McIntyre: All it takes to change someone back from being The Freak is a well placed chop to a vital nerve? Shell Head couldn't think of that when Happy was The Freak? I never thought much of the character in the Happy Hogan incarnation and this one isn't thrilling me either. It's a little too much of a stretch for me to think this machine will turn anyone into the same kind of…well, freak. And considering how Tony kept Happy's change a secret, it's weird to hear him blab about it over the intercom to a room full of doctors. Eddie being in a wheelchair for life is announced in a rather blasé manner by Don Blake ('tough break") when it's quite possible he sustained the injuries while battling Thor the previous issue. I've read worse. At least we got a gratuitous shot of Roxy in her skivvies. I have two versions of this issue in my files: the newsstand and also a "military edition." I noticed no difference in the stories. The ads were a little different. Weird.

Kull the Destroyer 13
“Torches from Hell!”
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Michael Ploog and Al Milgrom
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Mike Ploog and Al Milgrom

An apologetic Ridondo the Minstrel, one of the conspirators that cost Kull his crown, informs the disposed monarch that he has discovered that Ardyon the First is actually Thulsa Doom and that the evil wizard is bleeding Valusia dry with his constant demands of tribute. Kull and Brule steal into Valusia and, using hidden passages, make their way into the throneroom. They attack Thulsa Doom but the sorcerer conjurers a powerful fire demon. Brule douses the fiery fiend with a jug of perfume and his flames become uncontrollable, engulfing the entire room. Thulsa Doom flees as Kull and Brule battle through a legion of Black Guards to make their escape. Outside the smoking city, Kull vows to return with a better plan to regain the throne. -Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn: While I’m hardly a fan of Al Milgrom, I must say that the artwork is an improvement over last issue. The plot doesn’t add much to the Thulsa Doom storyline, as Kull finds himself in the same situation at the end as he was at the beginning, outside the city of Valusia looking in. Perhaps Englehart and Roy Thomas saw the writing on the wall: Kull’s first Marvel series was soon to be cancelled so why invest much effort into developing the character any further. Except for some flashes from Ploog’s pencil, we are in full on limping along mode. Drawn by Larry Lieber but with an uncredited author, the four-page reprint included, “He Fled in the Night,” was taken from Tales of Suspense #1, January 1959. Did the person that picked these reprints even check for quality or were they simply chosen for the page length needed? Set in 1717, this dreck is about a clerk who dreams of great adventures and riches. After quitting his job and dumping his fiancée, he joins the crew of a schooner heading for the South Pacific. On the last panel, the clerk reveals that his name is Robinson Crusoe. Ofah.

Master of Kung Fu 17
"Lair of the Lost!"
Story by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ernie Chan and John Romita

Shang-Chi spots a newspaper article that reports the arrival of Sir Denis Nayland Smith in the U.S. S-C considers his murder of Dr Petrie (as ordered by Fu Manchu), and wonders whether his actions require punishment under western law. S-C determines to consult Sir Denis, and also to seek to explain his present understanding of the wrongfulness of his actions. In order to speak with Sir Denis, S-C first will have to fight his way past a houseful of deadly obstacles, and finally former British foreign service operative Black Jack Tarr, who makes no bones of his dislike for Chinese. S-C finally bests Black Jack by flipping him thru a railing, which sends him crashing to the floor, twenty feet below; Black Jack is not seriously hurt, but is out of the fight. S-C tries to convince Sir Denis, but Sir Denis dismisses S-C’s admission of knowledge of wrongdoing. S-C decides instead to prove to Sir Denis that he has understanding of him, by challenging Sir Denis to stand up from his wheelchair. Sir Denis finds that (despite his Fu-orchestrated leg injuries), thru force of will, he is able to rise to a standing position – thereby proving S-C’s point that “what one knows, . . . is not always the truth.” S-C departs thru a window, until their next meeting. -Chris Blake

Chris Blake: The cover states that S-C is “Now In His Own Mag!”, but that’s more of a bookkeeping measure than anything else – the words “Master of Kung Fu” have been prominently on display since S-C’s first appearance, and the numbering continues without interruption – all that’s missing are the words “Special Marvel Edition” that were on the covers of #15 and #16. Still, it’s a nice early endorsement for Marvel’s newest character – sales must have really exceeded expectations. Steve responds to a letter-col request that S-C be upgraded to monthly status, and states that this is unlikely, explaining that both he and Jim already require extra time to prepare each issue. Sadly, this is Starlin’s final appearance as penciller on this title, with Steve on writing chores only thru #19 (and the title will go monthly right after Steve’s departure, if that’s any consolation).

The issue achieves a balance, as there is action, but also true dramatic tension, particularly in S-C’s attempt to explain himself to Sir Denis. Smart decision by Steve to have S-C recognize that he will not be able to convince Sir Denis right away – it would not be credible, based on Sir Denis’ familiarity with Fu and his machinations, for Sir Denis’ opinion of S-C to be changed too easily.

Starlin’s art continues to look great, with Milgrom’s inks doing well enough. Roussos’ colors again contribute to the mood. For some reason, Marvel at this point has instituted a policy (or guideline, whatever you wanna call it) that titles should feature a two-page art spread – these spreads will be in evidence for a few months. This approach might work for some titles, but I feel like it was a mistake to impose it here. Part of the effect of MoKF is achieved with its compact art panels – when you suddenly blow the art up to several times its usual size (pg 16-17), I think you’re taking away from the comic’s appeal, rather than contributing to it – it simply doesn’t seem to work here. While I’m on the topic of scale, I will quibble about Starlin (in my opinion) not adequately establishing the size differential between Black Jack and S-C (see pg 26-27). Ernie Chua’s dynamic cover presents BJT as about a foot taller – and possibly one hundred pounds heavier – than S-C, which obviously makes him an imposing opponent; I don’t think Starlin achieves the same effect.

Do you suppose Milgrom enjoyed having to ink himself having his ass kicked by S-C (pg 3)? Starlin must have taken a particular glee in those panels. That’s Starlin (with the dashing moustache – you’ll notice that the other guys don’t come off as well) scampering away from S-C – is he reminding us that “The better part of valor is discretion,” or simply admitting that he’s a bit of a weasel?

Mark Barsotti: With tired retreads, dross and MCD infecting the flagship Marvel mags of this era, the oddball marginal-selling titles (Man-Thing, Doc Strange, Captain Marvel, Tomb of Dracula) offered refuge for the discerning fan, raising the creative bar for "funny books" to heights seldom equaled in subsequent decades. The third helping of MOKF (Shang-Chi now in his own mag!) builds on the first installment and, allowing for the occasional downturn, vaults the book into the top quality ranks for the next several years.

"Lair of the Lost!" finds Shang in New York, distractedly taking down junkies who try rolling him as he stews in guilt over the murder he committed on poppa Fu's orders. Even as our PJ-clad hero decides to ask Sir Denis Nayland Smith (also now in the US) if he should turn himself in, the aging British spy is plotting Shang's demise, payback for his murdered friend.

Traveling to Sir Denis's digs in Rye, NY, our KF master overcomes every trap – spikes at the bottom of trapdoor, falling chandeliers, robo-knights – before besting the imposing Black Jack Tarr (a pip-pipping Dum-Dum Dugan on steroids) and confronting the expecting-to-be-murdered Sir Denis himself. Instead Shang goads the goateed spymaster into standing on his presumptively crippled legs, astonishing the man who sought his death and setting the stage for their long, collaborative war against Fu Manchu.

While not his best, Jim Starlin's art is still effective, and Steve Englehart infuses an action-packed tale with themes of guilt, redemption, and moral shades of grey.

Not bad for a chop-suey "kiddie" comic.

The Man-Thing 4
"The Making of a Madman!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Val Mayerik and Jack Abel
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

The man who calls himself the Foolkiller has shot down the Man-Thing in the swamp, and a helicopter, mistaking it’s occupants for someone else. When one of the passengers—all of whom miraculously survived—berates him for these actions, he too is shot down. The Man-Thing, however, is not so easily disposed of; he was merely stunned by this mad prophet’s weapon, and the swamp has revived him. He senses that the people need help getting to a hospital. The Foolkiller returns to his “hideout”: an innocent--looking semi truck whose trailer is actually his secret laboratory. There he talks to the formaldehyde preserved corpse of “Mike,” the preacher that was his own inspiration. As a boy, the Foolkiller’s parents both died war heroes, and he was confined to a wheelchair. Mike had “healed” him, or made him believe enough in himself to be healed. He became Mike’s protégé, becoming a self-proclaimed messiah. When he one day caught Mike with a woman and wine, he realized Mike wasn’t all he had pretended to be. Having just formulated the idea of using his faith to become this avenging superhero soldier, he started “cleansing” sin by killing Mike. He still felt Mike was his hero, so preserved him thus. The Man-Thing meanwhile, gets a ride for the crash survivors by stopping the car ironically carrying F.A. Schist, the swamp’s would-be developer. Down the road, they pass Foolkiller’s truck, and he pursues them, running them off the road, although they survive. Next he drives through a diner window, to get Rory Richard, another victim. He takes Rory away in the truck, and Schist too, when he realizes he survived the crash. Foolkiller takes them far into swampland, where he plans to shoot them—until the Man-Thing comes along and puts an end to the mad preacher for good. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: Foolkiller’s origin (did I miss a name?) is bizarre, yet original enough to be believable. An exercise in how misguided belief can twist “truth” into almost anything, starting with his overcoming his own childhood paralysis. The plot is resolved well, most of the characters, but for a few unfortunates, getting what they deserve. Val Mayerik’s art is a delight, at times reminding me of Gene Colan's. I kind of find myself wanting to see Jennifer and Andy again; we’ll see what direction the mag takes now…

Scott: The Fool Killer has a mobile semi he drives into with his zippy sports car. Did Knight Rider steal this concept from The Man-Thing? The first of a few different "Fool Killers" meets an ignominious fate. Schist looks different every issue and next month, Mike Ploog returns in a very classic story immortalized by Power Records (more on that when it happens). Val Mayerik draws a great Man-Thing, but has trouble with everyone else. Not the worst issue ever, but far from amazing.

Matthew: This marks the swan song for Mayerik and Abel, Val ending his historic run on the strip with Gerber (although he would return in 1981 to pencil the final issue of Volume 2), yet they go out on a typically high note, with a quintessential shot of Manny in page 3, panel 4 and the spectacle that spills right off of page 17. It’s also a quick exit for the original Foolkiller, whose career would be as offbeat as it was brief; trust Steve to introduce a villain who isn’t just a religious fanatic, but believes he is the literal Messiah. Steve spins a surprisingly bloodthirsty tale, although he mitigates the body count somewhat by having characters who at first appear—and perhaps by rights should, under the circumstances, be—dead miraculously survive the finale.

Mark: The Foolkiller dies by the end of "The Making of a Madman" (other iterations of the character will appear, per Prof Matthew), ironically skewered by a shard of flying Plexiglas from the human fish tank in which floated the preserved corpse of Foolie's mentor, Reverend Mike, who'd cured a lame orphan boy and turned him into the hot junior Jimmy Swaggart on the Chautauqua circuit.

You'd think the little turd would be grateful enough to overlook his mentor's weakness of the flesh fun session with booze and a blond (who has a stack of cash on her lap, suggesting she's either a pro, or that Rev. Mike is termited with such moral dry-rot that he screws on a pile of money, a la Scrooge McDuck), but, no, Foolie killed him instead.

Easy to see what Gerber's going for with Foolkiller – Dad killed by Japs in WWII, nurse Mom by commies in Korea. Crippled Foolie (we never get his name) devours military history growing up so: warmonger + religious fanatic = deluded, dressed like a Village People pirate, dealing death as the righteous sword (ray-gun) of the Lord.

But it sounds better than it is.

Chris: We continue to get our share of self-righteous mayhem from Foolkiller. While there’s a lot of chasing around and crashing into things, it doesn’t do much to build on the previous issue. At first, Foolkiller is content to run Schist’s jeep off the road (in a Duel homage that Prof Matthew must have thoroughly enjoyed), but when he finds him alive later, Foolkiller suddenly has to bring Schist to the edge of the swamp to kill him? Seemed like Foolky was perfectly okay with a whole lot of broad-daylight killing (with witnesses present, no less) up to that point. Of course, the drive to the swamp’s edge allows for Man-Thing to make a deus-ex-machinal appearance, as the story wraps up in a rush. We’ve come to allow for the unexpected and inexplicable in this mag, but the pieces simply don’t pull together as well this time. Mayerik has contributed notably to the look and feel of this title, but there isn’t much to see here; paired with Abel’s inks, Val doesn’t close out on a high note.

Things I did like: a truly unique origin story for Foolkiller (no electrically-charged chemical spills here); the Maharishi-moment that pushes FK to his first self-justifiable homicide; and, Manny’s staredown of Schist, to convince him to convey the ill-fated crash-survivors to safety (and since when would Schist run from a death threat? Ok, I’ll stop now).

Mark: Foolkiller as last month's appetizer was tasty; as the main course he gave me indigestion. All the classic ingredients of a Gerber Super-Twisto were overcooked in a less-than-the-sum-of-his-parts character I neither believed in, nor had a wit of empathy for.

As Prof Matthew has noted, artist Val Mayerik goes out on high note, again upgraded by Jack Abel's inks. But I'm surprised my esteemed colleague thought MT #4 has a particularly high body count, since the body bag parade has been a theme of late. But the death toll had little impact this time. Sturdy Steve, to his credit, has set the creative bar on the title pretty damn high.

This time, straining for satire, Gerber comes up short.

Marvel Team-Up 20
The Amazing Spider-Man and The Black Panther in
"Dinosaurs on Broadway!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Sal Buscema, Frank Giacoia, and Mike Esposito
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

Stunned in battle, Spidey is dumped by Stegron off the coast of New York, yet the Black Panther—warned by Jarvis that Tony Stark’s new multi-digital sensor scan has detected the airborne ark’s approach—arrives in an Avengers quin-jet just in time to rescue him. Spidey asks Connors to seek an antidote while he and T’Challa develop a super-strong but unstable new web fluid in preparation for battling Stegron, whose reptilian horde bursts out of Central Park, headed down Broadway toward Times Square. T’Challa tackles Stegron as Spidey subdues the dinosaurs and rescues MJ, who is searching for Peter; informed that he cannot be cured, Stegron tries to escape via pterodactyl, but is unseated by Spidey, and apparently drowns. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Sal Buscema, meet MTU: the beginning of a beautiful friendship, even if Our Pal’s just warming up for the long run starting in #32, and it’s just struck me what a perfect MTU artist he is, despite then having virtually no track record with Spidey, because—as I apostrophized regarding Defenders #10—“who [else] has drawn so many members of our little universe so consistently well?” My only tiny complaint about the art, nicely inked by Giacoia and Esposito, is panel 6 on story page 7 (I’m going by the all-Wein 1979 treasury edition), where T’Challa’s eye-holes are inconsistent. Although I slightly prefer part one, this is a perfectly solid conclusion to Stegron’s debut, with an excellent use of the oft-neglected Panther, in both his own right and his interactions with Spidey.

Joe Tura: Sal! Very cool to see my favorite artist on one of my favorite books, even though the story is a little goofy, the whole team-up of Spidey and T'Challa is silly and the ending is downright depressing. But it's OK, because it's still a solid comic book with, of course, fabulous artwork. I never bought the whole Mary Jane bit and didn't like it reading it again 40 years later. "Never trust a redhead"...Geez, that explains that girl I met at Malibu in Lido Beach when I was 21, the supposed "one who got away". Sigh.....

Scott: Part two of another saga I once read in a Treasury Edition. Well drawn by Buscema and a good deal of fun, the sight of seeing all of these dinos on Broadway was fairly cool. I just always wonder what the rest of the city's superhero contingent is doing at moments like that.

Luke Cage, Power Man 18
"Havoc on the High Iron!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Jean Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

A depressed Power Man visits the graveyard, reflecting on how people that get too close to him end up dieing. He has his girlfriend Claire to cheer him up though, and the two make a pact to stay together. As the couple walk back through New York City, Cage witnesses a new villain, named Steeplejack, about to throw a mogul off the roof of a building. After an intense brawl with the tough villain, Cage saves the mogul, who relates to Cage that Steeplejack had two brothers that worked in the construction trade. When his brothers accidentally fell off the building that they were working on and died, Steeplejack vowed revenge, wrongly blaming the rich tycoon. Because he blames the mogul, Steeplejack plans on destroying his latest building. The mogul hires Power Man to protect his building so it isn't long before Luke has another tussle with Steeplejack. Ironically, Steeplejack ends up suffering the same fate as his brothers when he accidentally plummets to his death after melting one of the beams on the building. The story ends with Power Man getting a call from his informant 'Flea,' in dire need of help. Dying in an alley, Flea informs Luke that he was poisoned by a villain calling himself 'Cotton Mouth.' -Tom McMillion

Not knowing that about five years in the future, his garb would be all
the rage, Steeljack reacts nastily to heckling

Tom McMillion: I've got to give this series credit. At least when the creators come up with a loser villain like Steeplejack, they have him rubbed out in one issue, so no one has to suffer having to read any more stories featuring him. This 'Village People' reject will not be missed. His racial slurs directed at Cage were a little surprising, to me, to be found in a comic book from that era. I do kind of feel bad for Flea though. A good snitch is hard to find in the Hero for Hire business.

Scott: The Tuska Teeth are in full force again, but primarily in the black characters. Didn't anyone of the era have anything to say about it? A good, action-packed epic, classic Blaxploitation in a four color comic. Cage's enemies tend to meet horrible fates and Steeplejack is no exception. He's also not very interesting.

Strange Tales 173
Brother Voodoo in
"Sacrifice Play"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Gene Colan and Dick Giordano
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Gaspar Saladino
Cover by Rich Buckler and Ernie Chan

Still searching for the kidnapped Loralee, Brother Voodoo seeks help from the celebrated witch woman, Mama Limbo. The old woman tells Jericho that she can't tell him exactly where the girl can be found, but that he may find clues at the home of Desmond Drew, a shady character who has been, at times, an adversary of Brother Voodoo. Jeicho visits the mansion (atop Headtaker's Hill) but Drew has no answers for him. As he is leaving the estate, a strange fog rises up and the six hooded men who kidnapped Loralee materialize before him. Knowing he will never find the girl otherwise, he lets the men believe they have overpowered him. When he awakens, Brother Voodoo is atop an inverted cross and below him lies the subject of his search, the beautiful Loralee. Stepping out of the shadows and taking credit for her kidnapping is The Black Talon, a giant rooster who tells Jericho he's about to sacrifice the most-precious prize.

Peter Enfantino: And so ends the five-issue reign of Brother Voodoo in Strange Tales. Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with more of a chuckle at that final panel. Oh, BV'll be back as a guest star now and then in the usual places (Marvel Team-Up, Werewolf by Night, etc.) but never again the star of his own series. That's a shame, as I thought there was a lot of potential for the character if he had been used correctly. Unfortunately, this entry points out exactly why no one gave a damn: nothing happens. BV goes to Mama Limbo (another one of those goofy Voodoo names that relies on Papa, Mama, Brother, or Sister -- was there ever an Uncle Bingo?), she tells him "No, I ain't got no answers but you should check out Headtaker's Hill." He heads up there, where he's told nothing by Desmond Drew and then is taken prisoner by a guy who couldn't get a job with the Zodiac despite having just as silly a costume as that band of misfits (seriously, how would you fight with big chicken slippers on your feet?). To be fair, this saga will supposedly be wrapped up in Tales of the Zombie #6 (out in July), but this isn't the way things should be done in a comic book. If the series was not selling comic books, fine, wrap it up. But don't force readers to shell out 75 cents for the denouement. It may be that the cancellation came at the last second as there's no mention in the letters page of the impending change of characters. The reprint, "Bait" from World of Suspense #4 (October 1956), is an enjoyable slice of Atlas fantasy about a deep-sea fishing expedition by marine biologists that brings something ancient and perhaps apocalyptic to the surface.

Chris: Len sets the mysterious mood right from the start, as Mama Limbo rolls dem bones for Jericho. Jericho’s travels bring him in contact with the robed fanatics, and he feels the presence in the fog, but draws no closer to the answers he seeks, until – zip, we’re out of pages. And the story isn’t continued in another comic (ie a crossover with a different title) – no, you have to tune in to Tales of the Zombie to see the conclusion. This is a double-disservice to fans, who not only get a truncated story (15 measly pages), but now have to figure out where to find a b&w magazine.

I mention this, because fan letters frequently report that they have limited comics distribution in their parts of the country – with that in mind, how many Strange Tales fans would be able – or, would bother – to track down a magazine? I don’t know whether this move was due to slack sales of Brother Voodoo, or whether Roy wanted to juice up the content to non-Code levels. Wouldn’t it have been better to compress the material from #172 and #173 into one issue (the lack of a reprint might’ve made that possible – grumble grumble), then present the last chapter in this issue, and dispense with a transfer to another format to wrap up the story? Either way, you’d have a difficult time finding a better art team for this character than Colan & Giordano; at least Colan & Chiaramonte provide the art for the TotZ story (which, by the way, runs a whopping 17 pages).

Adding to the confusion is the statement on the bottom of the last page about Man-Wolf coming to Strange Tales. Well, that might’ve been the plan at one point, but instead M-W will appear (perhaps fittingly) in Creatures on the Loose. Strange Tales will feature the Golem, and then the triumphant return of a golden-hued messianic figure. Final note: we glimpse Black Talon for only one full page here; in a few years, he’ll figure more prominently in one of my favorite storylines, namely, the resuscitation of Simon Williams (in Avengers #152).

The Mighty Thor 222
"Before the Gates of Hell!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

Hercules and Thor first arm-wrestle, then brawl to see who should be the one to undertake the voyage to battle Pluto, until Zeus puts some sense in their heads—go together! Ares, God of War, meanwhile, is horseback riding through the forest, when a troll messenger from Pluto tells him that the Lord of the Netherworld awaits him at the gates of Hell. Later, when Thor and Hercules are traversing the same forest, they are ambushed by an army of trolls. They defeat them, then Herc suggests they pay a visit to Chaga, a witch who tells them that Ares is the one who is aligned with Pluto. They do find the war god after journeying through the ever-denser forest. He seems much more powerful than before, and Thor surmises that he is being remotely powered by Pluto. -Jim Barwise

Jim: Pluto usually is the sign of a decent storyline; so far this one is lukewarm. The arm wrestling match is a humorous touch, although I don’t know why they wouldn’t have figured themselves that they could both have gone to the netherworld. Ares gets an actual part, but it’s a very two-dimensional one.

Chris: Could you ask for a finer cover? Kind of a shame that Gil Kane only penciled a handful of Thor issues in his time – he certainly knew how to bring the character to life. If he were still with us, I’d call up ol’ Gil and hire him to paint a fresco on my living room wall.

Matthew: Buscinnott!!! Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system. With my favorite duo reunited—at least for this issue—the artwork is beyond reproach, naturlich, and since Thor and Hercules vs. Ares and Pluto is a tag-team match well worth the price of admission, I’ll go easy on the brickbats for Gerry, too. If I had to quibble, it would be with the fractious nature of our Asgardian/Olympian twosome, although I’m obliged to admit that isn’t exactly out of character, and with the notion that they are so evenly matched when Hercules, as I have to keep reminding people, is technically only a demigod (his mother was a mortal, Alcmene), and thus should be no match for Thor. If that’s the worst I can say, you know I’m waiting with pleasure for next issue.

Scott: The first six pages are nothing but filler; six pages of eye-rolling time-wasting as Thor and Hercules arm wrestle and then beat the crap out of each other until Zeus suggests working together. Really? That was all they needed to do to resolve their issue? Worse, Thor even admits the thought crossed his mind. Honestly, battles for the sake of showing two dudes hitting each other is - not - exciting. Once the battle is done, seconds later, Thor and Herc look like they just stepped in from a nice Spring day. The two page spread on 16 and 17 is mighty pretty, but it again feels like padding. I actually miss the final days of the wonky Kirby art and purple Lee prose. It was, at least, morbidly entertaining.

The Tomb of Dracula 19
"Snowbound in Hell!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

After causing a helicopter crash, Dracula is stranded with Rachel Van Helsing in the cold, bleak, winter alps of Transylvania. Resisting the urge to feed on her, Drac takes Rachel along in case he needs a snack later. Rachel does her best to try to trip the Count up so that she can escape. Things get so desperate for the lord of evil that he is reduced to drinking the blood of a mountain goat. When one of the rams attacks Dracula, Rachel saves him. Eventually, Frank Drake swoops in in a helicopter and saves Rachel. Drac is left alone in the alps, unable to fly away as a bat due to the harsh, powerful winds. During this time, Blade reveals to Quincy Harker that because his mother was bitten while she was pregnant with Blade, he is impervious to vampire bites. Blade comes alive and tells Quincy this just before the old timer drives a stake through his heart (the black vampire hunter was bitten in the neck by Dracula during a previous fight). At one of Dr. Sun's global headquarters, this one in Ireland, the vampire creation named Brand completes his training. -Tom McMillion

Tom: While I'm sure it wasn't intentional, the site of a ram attacking Dracula was funny. I never knew rams could be so deadly. The vampire hunters should breed and train them to help fight their cause! Other then that, not the best issue in the series by far. I'm more interested in the upcoming showdown between Dr. Sun's new hit man, Brand, and Dracula.

Scott: A fine tale of snowy suspense. This issue was edited down into a Power Records book and record set, which was pretty brutal stuff for the audience those 45's were aimed toward. This was my first exposure to Marvel's Dracula and it’s a story I always remembered, at least in part. There are the usual stalls and coincidental reasons why Dracula can't kill Rachel, but it all goes by very quickly. We also finally learn more about Blade, information that really adds to his character. Gene Colan's art is sublime.

Chris: Marv continues to find ways to supply satisfying surprises to the storyline. Another cold opening (again, couldn’t resist -!) that would’ve sent the pre-teen me scrambling for the modest box of comics, so I could dig for ToD #18 and mutter to myself “We didn’t leave off last ish with the two of them lost in the snow . . ?!” A quick flashback soon brings us up to speed. Nice restraint on Marv’s part, as he doesn’t openly state Drac’s purpose in keeping RVH alive, until about halfway thru the issue – not that we didn’t suspect, but when Drac’s plan is left unstated, we have a chance to wonder whether something else might be at work. (Unrelated note: Drac nonchalantly tosses the vampire-busting tome into the snow (pg 14) – will he come to regret his overconfidence??)

Chris: Drac offs Rachel’s pilot, then simply allows the helicopter to crash –why? A simple sadistic curiosity? “I know I’ll survive – let’s see what else might happen.” -? Rachel refrains from allowing the ram to kill Drac –again, why? Afraid of being left alone on the mountainside? Distressed by the possibility of being denied her right to kill Drac herself? Stockholm syndrome is unlikely – only two pages previously, she had lunged at Drac and missed. I’d be interested to hear what Quincy might say about one of the hunters passing up an opportunity – any opportunity – that would result in the undead becoming realdead.

Readers had some time to wonder what might’ve happened to Blade back in Paris, a few issues ago. The concept of Blade’s immunity is a masterstroke – I wonder whether Marv had planned that all along (after all, we’ve known for some time how Drac killed Blade’s mother), or whether this idea came later.

Colan & Palmer do very well with the murky snowstorm, but the cave scenes work especially well, particularly the moment when the two opponents are staking (hee hee!) each other out (pg 18, panel 5).

Mark: This issue picks up shortly after Werewolf By Night #15 ends, and I thought there was a major continuity error but - students, take note, you may never hear this again – the boo-boo was mine, for ending my roundup of the above-named WBN with:

"Drac rips up the controls of Frank & Rachel's 'copter, but...Frank and Rach can still fly away. Sure."
So even while enjoying Drac and Rachel Van Helsing wage war with each other and the elements in "Snowbound in Hell," I'm wondering where the hell's Frank Drake and how could Wolfman fumble a major plot point, even with a cross-title handoff, since he wrote both books!

So back to the source of confusion, the end of WBN #15, p. 30, panel 3, a stand-off between crossbow-wielding Rachel and the Count, with Frank standing between them. By panel 5, when VH bolts for the chopper, Frank is now inexplicably behind Drac. Unexplained teleportation aside, he's not running to escape. And when the 'copter takes off on the last page, the cockpit is in shadows, there could be one or two people aboard. Your humbled instructor assumed it was the latter on ambiguous evidence and was ready to hang Marvelous Marv for it (but WBN #15 is still pretty blah)!

Since the facility at this august institution is committed to getting our facts right (even more than unspooling our pithy, occasional peevish, opinions), we too must face sanction when we stumble.

Therefore, class, the pop-quiz is cancelled, but you should read "Snowbound in Hell!" anyway. Once past the iffy premise of Drac keeping Rachel alive as emergency rations, its great fun watching them spew invective at each other like Burton and Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? We learn Blade's alive after all, immune to vampirism due to circumstances of his birth, and the Dr. Sun's sub-plot advances another intriguing page or two. Snowy, windswept mountains are the perfect palette for Gene's fluid, smoky pencils - Colan & Palmer give good blizzard.

You all get an A. Class dismissed.

While I slouch to the Dean's office to plead for my ever-endangered parking space.

Werewolf by Night 16
"Death in the Cathedral!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Chiaramonte
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Mike Ploog and John Romita

On a rare Fourth Night in a Paris airport, Jack transforms into the Werewolf and bursts onto the runway! A plane almost hits him, one carrying a hunchbacked hijacker with a bag of explosives, and when it lands, Werewolf gets in and attacks the mutant madman! As they battle, the pilot tries to defuse the bomb and Topaz sneaks on board to help Jack, but her distraction allows the hunchback to knock him out and kidnap her! Werewolf tracks “the ugly one” to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, naturally. Up to the bell tower he climbs, where the hunchback speaks defiantly in French against the world and tosses Werewolf off the top, but the creature grabs the string and sounds the bell, causing the hunchback to stagger away…then Werewolf attacks his prey! Before he can kill the bell-ringing baddie, Topaz mind-links the two, but passes out from the strain. Werewolf goes wild again and tosses the hunchback off the tower, only to hear a conscious Topaz yell to stop—and he grabs the mutant’s hand! But the heavy hunched one slips out of the hairy hero’s grasp, and falls to his death, surrounded by the French police. And a werewolf cries…. –Joe Tura

Joe: Here it is. The one issue of WWBN I know for sure I owned. And it also helps clear up a little detail I had wrong all these years….I always thought I was 5 years old when I had my root canal, but it turns out I was 7. You see, after the dreaded tooth fixing, when I could swear the needle was three feet long, and I somehow survived the ordeal, my Dad took a woozy me to some strange “junk store” (as my Mom used to call these types of establishments) near the dentist’s office, which just so happened to sell comic books. I was allowed to buy three from the very slim pickings available, and WWBN #16 was one of them. No clue what the other two were, but this one I remember vividly. I think my Dad thought it was cool because it had a Quasimodo-like character on the cover. I had no idea, I was so out of it and just happy to get any comics, but anyway that’s my story.

So Mike Ploog is certainly the master of the “Damsel in Distress” cover, except this time she’s in the air instead of lying on the ground in horror, and all in all it works because Ploog is pretty close to brilliant. And the insides are no slouch either. Friedrich does more of a bang-up job than you could possibly expect coming off of Marv’s decent run. Of course, this being WWBN, it ain’t perfect by any stretch, but it’s as solid as the hunch on our villain’s back. You almost feel sorry for both creatures at the end, since for once Friedrich’s “Jack inner monologue” works this time around. Equal parts suspense, action, pathos, strangeness, craziness and needless Topaz-worrying. Good stuff, and much better than I would have thought after all these years. Certainly a hell of a lot better than root canal.

Chris: The story reads as a one-shot (there’s only a passing reference to Jack’s recent concerns about the Committee, and their intents regarding his step-father), and seems to have been intended strictly as a device to pit the Werewolf against the Hunchback. For once, the motivations of the Werewolf are easier to follow than those of his opponent. Friedrich never quite establishes how this incarnation of the Hunchback expects to realize his “dream” thru the hijacking of a plane, then the abduction of a beautiful blonde, and finally a climb to the top of the bell tower at Notre Dame (the last of the major independent cathedrals). Topaz’s ability to draw Jack’s consciousness into the Werewolf is, again, well utilized, especially as her control is shown to waver if they are separated, or if either one’s waking state is compromised.

Friedrich lays it on a bit thick at the end as the Werewolf is said to pray, and is shown as crying, when he is unable to save the Hunchback – not quite buying it, don’t agree that it was necessary. If the “Mikes” are trying to achieve some of the monster-sympathy that Gary Friedrich and Ploog were able to inspire in Frankenstein, there simply isn’t time to reach for that here. Ploog’s art is very good, of course, in his final installment on this series, especially in the close-quarter battling.

Scott: Not the most interesting story, but the last few pages are pretty good in the development of the werewolf. Up until then, it's not much to write home about. Ploog's art is up to the usual fascinating standard, but that's barely enough to hold my interest.

Also This MonthDead of Night 3
Journey Into Mystery 10
Kid Colt Outlaw 181
Marvel Double Feature 3
Outlaw Kid 21
Two-Gun Kid 117
Uncanny Tales 3
Vault of Evil 10
Weird Wonder Tales 3
<- Worlds Unknown 6
X-Men 87


The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 1
Cover by Neal Adams

"Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu"
Story by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom

"Heroes Don't Die"
Text by Lorraine Zenka-Smith

"What to Do Till the Sensei Comes"
Text by Denny O'Neil

"Getting in Shape for the Martial Arts"
Text by Jeffrey Pinkus
"Catching a Killer Red-Handed!"
Text by John David Warner

"Under the Pagoda: Films of Fury"
Text by John David Warner

"The Way of the Tiger, The Sign of the Dragon and the Click of the Nielsens!"
Story by John David Warner
Art by Dick Giordano

"Raising Caine on Thursday Night: What's Right With Kung Fu"
Text by Denny O'Neil

"Sons of the Tiger"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Dick Giordano

Fu Manchu fetches martial arts instructor Cho Lin, to ask the man his opinion of son Shang-Chi's recent betrayal. Does the boy lack the killer instinct despite being born of the world's most infamous terrorist? Cho reminds Fu of an incident on Shang's 14th birthday. Worried that his son might just be a mama's boy, Fu hires assassins to test the youth's mettle. At first hesitant, Shang-Chi eventually wipes the assassin's asses and, upon hearing it was his father who ordered the hit, falls back to meditate. I was never a fan of the chop-socky movies and, to this 13 year-old, there was only one thing worse: chop-socky comics. I couldn't be bothered. Even now, I'm hesitant to weigh in on an art form so specialized that it can't help but be repetitive and boring. It's like trying to illustrate music. The very nature of Kung Fu is that it requires movement, something you'll never get from a comic strip. Having said that, it is written by the greatest comic writer of all time and that has to bode well, right? Well, sorta. This untitled tale feels more like a refresher course for those who might have missed Shang's first three color issues (I raise my hand in guilt) but it's an exciting enough saga, a flashback to the younger days of the Master of Kung Fu. More than anything though, it gives me an added appreciation for Professor Chris Blake, who has to come up with new ways to say "...then he spins and kicks all three villains in the 'nads."

Asassins attack young Lin Sun outside his Kung Fu studio and mortally wound his inspiration, Master Kee. Just before Kee dies, he passes on three medallions to Lin and instructs the boy to enlist two of his friends, Bob Diamond and Abe Brown, also highly skilled in the ways of martial arts. The three trace the origin of the assassins to a martial arts school in Chinatown that fronts an opium den. Donning the medallions (and some dominatrix gear) and chanting a secret mantra, the three become the super-powered "Sons of the Tiger" and quickly make scraps of the bad guys. Rather than bask in glory, Lin Sun reminds the others that there is more injustice, racial intolerance, and overpriced comic book back issues for them to deal with. I'm not sold on this massive cliche (three very different men of three racial backgrounds join to battle yadda yadda yadda) and Gerry's injection of superhero trappings made me laugh out loud. So why would three dudes, trained in the martial arts, be wearing tight black spandex with ill-defined logos (in one panel, I kid you not, the patch looks like Spider-Man's face) rather than the usual loose-fitting pajamas? And where the hell did they get those suits at the 11th hour? The hip black man lingo, just dying out over at Captain America, is give a unwelcome rebirth here in the dialogue by African-American shitkicker Abe Brown (Get it? Abe Brown!):

"Brother, you're one lucky dude... you just got yourself a taste of authentic Kung Fu..."
"Watch out, you slimey sons of crud! As of now -- we're comin' through!"
"Don't expect me to bend over and let you do it, though... 'cause brothers, that ain't old Abe's way!"
(I've been repeating that last line and laughing out loud for hours)

Dick Giordano's art makes all the right (Neal Adams) moves but some of his choreography is just downright silly. It's one thing to imagine a man launching into a flip-kick but quite another to see it diagrammed in a comic panel (see below). It just doesn't work. Nor does any of this, to be frank.

Unlike the other magazines in the B&W line, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu can't rely on reprints to fill up the space between new material (after all, there were no chop socky titles in the 1950) so reviews of contemporary films and commentary on the sport are provided. There's also an appreciation of Bruce Lee, who had died the year before at the height of his popularity. I can tell you when Chris Claremont is full of blueberry muffins when he claims Billy the Kid vs. Dracula is a better movie than The Night Stalker but when it comes to the martial arts, I'll just take their word for it. -Peter Enfantino

The multiracial Sons carved out a respectable career of their own, including encounters with fellow martial artists Iron Fist and Shang-Chi and the inevitable Marvel Team-Up guest shot, before spawning an afterlife when the amulets they literally trashed turned a Hispanic youth (leaving no ethnic stone unturned) into the White Tiger. Conway’s origin story is solid if not breathtakingly original, while Giordano’s excellent artwork makes encountering this story rather disorienting for me, because I keep thinking I’ve picked up a copy of Batman by mistake. I wouldn’t have thought I’d been exposed to enough DC material even to make such an association but ’twould seem that my subconscious knows better than I do. -Matthew Bradley

Vampire Tales 4
Cover by Boris Vallejo

"Lighthouse of the Possessed"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Tom Sutton

"Everything You Always Wanted to Know
About Vampires"
Text by Chris Claremont

"Somewhere Waits the Vampire"
Story Uncredited
Art by Paul Reinman
(reprinted from Journey Into Unknown Worlds #27, May 1954)

"A Vampire's Home is His Castle"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Lombardia

"Hell House is Dying"
Review by Don McGregor

"The Vampire's Coffin"
Story Uncredited
Art by Tony DiPreta
(reprinted from Mystery Tales #15, September 1953)

"The Drifting Snow"
Story by Tony Isabella
Adapted from the short story by August Derleth
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Lighthouse of the Possessed"
Morbius and Amanda hide away in an ancient lighthouse, manned by an old crone and her deaf servant. Unknown to the Living Vampire, the slaves of Demon-Fire are closing in on him and Amanda. I'm not a big fan of the writing on this series, it's a little too literate for my tastes. I like to walk a line right down Main Street somewhere between Pompous Avenue and Inane Drive but Big Donny Mac tends to wander a bit towards pretentiousness with his prose. It's not "blood," it's "Crimson tides of scarlet life force" or some such flowery nonsense. Sometimes I get the sense that Marvel was paying by the word. My problems with "Lighthouse of the Possessed" do not extend to Tom Sutton's maggoty, leprous art (every character here, save Amanda, could do with some powerful skin cream), a perfect match for the subject. Morbius has never looked so vicious (certainly more of a dangerous monster than that previously crafted by Buckler, Kane, or Marcos) or drippy. It's nice to see Sutton used in his proper format: black and white and Code-Ignored. The deaf henchman, brandishing a hooked hand, is a nod to Sutton's greatest creation, Harold the insane butcher from "The Disenfranchised" (Eerie #39, April 1972).

Sutton's masterpiece, "The Disenfranchised"

Syrenzy the stone-cutter is loudly proud of his craftsmanship, loud enough for Count Varma, the village vampire, to take heed and direct the man to rebuild his moldering estate. After all, "A Vampire's Home is His Castle." As a warning to Syrenzy, should he not take the job seriously, Varma drains the stone-cutter's wife dry and demands that his three daughters be brought to the castle while the villager works. Syrenzy dies a slow death as he watches, one by one, his daughters turned into blood-sucking monsters but gets his revenge in the end by transforming Varma's castle into a huge crucifix! There's a really nasty streak throughout this one that I loved, a viciousness not seen too much even in the black and whites. Syrenzy is willing to do the vampire's bidding and yet the monster systematically destroys the man's life, seemingly just for sport. Near as I can tell, this was the only work Lombardia did for Marvel. It's decent enough art but nothing to bring out a long-term contract for.

"A Vampire's Home is His Castle"

Everyone up at the house thinks Aunt Mary's gone loony when two people are spotted in "The Drifting Snow" and Mary tells them the story of the snow vampires. I've never been a fan of August Derleth's fiction as it was always too slow for my tastes and his Lovecraft "collaborations" were deadly dull. I'll give you the atmosphere but sometimes mood won't keep you awake while you're reading a short story at night. Having said that, this little slip of a tale is a good one, helped along greatly by Esteban Maroto's gorgeous art. At this point, the guys behind the B&Ws aren't even trying to hide their inspiration anymore. "The Drifting Snow" could just as easily have come from the pages of Eerie, as evidenced by the exquisite female vampire, a character that would have felt right at home in Maroto's Dax, the Warrior series. And do I detect a bit of Virgil Finlay in there as well? Appropriate since "The Drifting Snow" first appeared in the pages of the Weird Tales (February 1939), a magazine that benefited greatly from Finlay's artistry.

Unfortunately, the reprints this issue are both awful. Usually, I can count on Atlas' pre-code material to put a smile on my face but "The Vampire's Coffin" is truly dreadful and the climax of "Somewhere Waits the Vampire" would be a surprise only to someone who has never read vampire story in their life. Most times I can place the blame at the feet of the writer but (smartly) no one has stepped forward to take credit for hatching either of these so I'll pick on the artists. Reinman shows flashes of brilliance here and there but his human characters are so uncharacteristic that they almost fade into the backgrounds. DiPreta's work, on the other hand, is devoid of anything remotely stylish. It's the worst, most generic kind of visuals, with each panel resembling the previous. Just look at the example below where Captain Banner appears to have an unusually large head or just a malformed arm.

Chris Claremont continues to bore me to tears with his dissertation on "The Vampire: His Kith and Kin" by Montague Summers. Four parts and still going... I suspect, somewhere out there, Claremont is still writing about this book. Don McGregor takes a look at why Hell House died at the theaters and, in the process, subtly hints that he thought the movie better than the book. The book was "shocking" and "degrading" whereas the movie is "beautifully crafted... down-playing the perversions...". Hard to argue those points, though I liked both book and film equally as much, and McGregor makes a very intelligent argument that if a film as well-crafted as Hell House can die at the box office, it means fewer well-crafted horror films in the future. Looking backward from my Forty Years On perch, it's hard to argue with that as well. -Peter Enfantino

Monsters Unleashed! 5
Cover by Bob Larkin
"All the Faces of Fear!"
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by Vicente Alcazar

"The Golden Voyage of Sinbad"
Review by Gerry Conway

"The Dark Passage"
Story Uncredited
Art by Ogden Whitney
(reprinted from Adventure Into Terror #10, June 1952)

"Glenn Strange,
Frankenstein Monster of Dodge City"
Obituary by Don Glut

"Demon of Slaughter Mansion"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Juan Boix

"Monsters in the Media"
Text by Carla Joseph

"Werewolf Tale to End All Werewolf Tales!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Paul Hodge
(reprinted from Journey Into Unknown Worlds #29, July 1954)

"Once a Monster...!"
Story by Gary Friedrich
Art by John Busema and Win Mortimer

First of all, is it just me or does it look as though the unusually large Man-Thing on the cover is feeding Ellie May Clampett to that alligator rather than saving her? "Right, open up, here ya go!"

"All the Faces of Fear" is a sequel, of sorts, to the very first Man-Thing adventure back in Savage Tales #1 (and reprinted at least sixty times since then) as Ellen Brandt, the beauty who betrayed Ted Sallis and paid the piper in the form of a burnt and mangled face, returns to the swamp to face her fears and put an end to the Man-Thing. Once she confronts the big muck monster though, she loses all her fears and faces the truth that her problems are all a result of her actions. Not too bad, this one, although it's got a few lapses in reason (would the equipment of A.I.M. still be cluttering up the swamps if it was worth a fortune?) and logic. Vicente Alcazar does a nice job drumming up atmosphere and his unbandaged Ellen is a babe to behold. Isabella lays down a few hints at what's to come and I'll be tuning in to see if those threads become anything of substance. It is nice to find something of Isabella's I don't have to stomp on.

Um, that's "you're concerned about"
Coming upon the form of Laura Devlon in the forest, reporter Daniel Cambridge carries the girl back to her parents' home deep in the forest. There he learns about a deadly family secret and becomes swept up in a centuries-old curse. Will the Devlon family be wiped off the face of the earth by "The Demon of Slaughter Mansion" or will love save the day? Promised twice before and twice before postponed, this could very well be the worst crap Marvel ever published in its black and white history. From its pretentious dialog ("... the hatred in its eyes were like those of an animal whose leg is maimed in a trap, glaring at the enemy who set it. Even though you're here... we're still... the self-imprisoned!") to its awful art (every panel posed, not one bit natural) and a letterer who could have benefited greatly from spell check ("... as if he cannot bare to be alone!"), "Demon" misfires on all bad cylinders. At one point, Cambridge comments that the proceedings are "beginning to take on overtones of a gothic novel." I'd agree. It's a rotten, nonsensical, pulpy gothic, possibly inspired by the type DC was running in Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love and The Sinister House of Secret Love. Well, why not? I think, by this time, the tentacles of Marvel were reaching out in just about every direction. By the way, pages 8 and 9 were originally printed out of order but the climax may actually make more sense if you read them out sequence. Can't hurt.

Dean Peter after reading Vampire Tales 4
and Monsters Unleashed 5
"Once a Monster..." is another chapter in the never-ending saga that should have been titled "The Brains of Frankenstein." Luckily, the crazed scientist who finds his grey matter in the head of the Monster had just completed work on a "molecular transposer," a gizmo that allows him to do brain surgery on himself! This comes in handy when he finds a hunky body to shift minds into. In an obvious "nod" to The Fly, catastrophe strikes when a stray mouse shimmies up the receiving body and gets its brain zapped into the Monster. That leaves the scientist in the body of the mouse and the reader hoping Gary Friedrich's problems on this B&W series don't translate over to the generally well-written color series. Win Mortimer is not doing Big John any favors.

"The Dark Passage" is yet another riff on "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," but "Werewolf Tale to End All Werewolf Tales" is a charming bit of nonsense about a couple who spend their honeymoon in a cabin set in what their French servant calls "Loup Garou country." Our uncredited documenter tries to throw suspicion on Henri the servant but I knew better. The "reveal" isn't all that startling but it will bring a smile to even the most jaded of horror fans.

Gerry Conway gives us the skinny on Ray Harryhausen's then-current Sinbad flick while dropping a little behind-the-scenes news on the forthcoming adaptation of the flick (in Worlds Unknown #7 and 8). There's nothing here resembling critical journalism but, when dealing with a Harryhausen movie, that seems to be the norm. Out comes the "Gosh wow, I grew up on Harryhausen!" If you wanted objectivity, you'd have to pick up Photon or Cinefantastique in those days, not something penned by Marvel comic book writers. End of my monthly rant. While I enjoyed Glenn Strange's performances as the Monster in a couple of Universal monster rallies, I find it odd that space was afforded his death but not that of Lon Chaney, Jr. a couple 
months prior. Carla Joseph continues to monkey with her news column (now with the more descriptive title of "Monsters in the Media"), including differentiating between "Recent Releases" (The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, etc.) and "Oldies and Goldies" (Night of the Living Dead, etc.). While there's nothing approaching ground-breaking journalism (okay, that's the end of my monthly rant), Joseph's little tidbits and micro-reviews are breezy reading and will have to do until Monsters of the Movies makes its debut in August.

-Peter Enfantino




  1. Great commentary as always.

    The military versions of comics have the thick, full color Mark Jeweler ad inserts and were sent to military bases so that servicemen could browse for engagement rings. But they're otherwise no different than regular versions.

  2. This issue of ToD blew my mind at the time. Not the story, which was good – even no whining Frank Drake, yay -, but the art. Compared to, say, the boring art on a lot of DCs books at the time or the lesser Marvel books this looked like the real thing. This was Art with a capital A. (Back then I didn't have access to the original books, and a lot like Conan was only decades later translated or never published at all like Man-Thing) Dracula in the snow with his hostage/late night snack, awesome. I have read countless versions of Dracula since then, and I still think Wolfman's is in the top 3. Even considering that this was a code book for a young audience.

    MoKF miracle healing of Nayland-Smith I never could believe, though. I know, it is quite idiotic to having no problem with Spider-Man swinging through the air but not believing a man can walk again if he just wills it, still :-) Apart from that this was fine issue. How easily Nayland-Smith could have become just another General Ross hunting S-C the next 50 issues.

    Of all the b/w Marvels and being a rabid fan of MoKF I never could warm to Deadly Hands. Of course I read it long after MoKF, and the text pieces didn't interest me at all then and some of the stories were rather weak. Maybe I am being unfair; there was some fine art in the magazine. Still I think the one factor which kept MoKF creative juices running over such a long time was its marriage to spy fiction and Rohmer's universe. Deadly never could top that.