Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August 1974 Part Two: Dawn of the Marvel Planet of the Apes!

Supernatural Thrillers 8
The Living Mummy in
"Power Times Four"
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by Val Mayerik
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Larry Lieber and Tom Palmer

Having vanished in thin air from a darkened alley way, The Living Mummy finds himself floating through space towards a reddish planet. When he lands, he is attacked and knocked unconscious by creatures that form from the earth. When N'Kantu comes to, he is faced with four beings who call themselves The Elementals: Hydron, Lord of Waters; Magnum, Master of the Earth; Hellfire, Wielder of Flame; and Zephyr, Mistress of the Winds. The quartet attempt to enlist The Mummy in their quest: to take a powerful gem in the shape of a scarab and, with it, enslave earth. The Mummy, at first, refuses but is enthralled in a spell crafted by Zephyr and sent to Egypt to acquire the scarab. -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: Not nearly the train wreck it could have been, this initial entry by newcomer Tony Isabella is, instead, simply a bit meandering. When one of the captions read "N'Kantu has absolutely no idea what is happening", I assumed Tony was offering up a confession for himself. Handed a series with a cliffhanger such as the one that ended last issue is a bit daunting. How to move this thing forward? Well, give him credit, Isabella manages to find an interesting concept (maybe not the most original one), four "gods" on another planet/in another dimension (or both?) who need to lay their hands on the holy grail of Egyptian antiquities. I read each and every one of these issues as they came out back in the day but I have no idea how well they'll hold up. If you had to ask me now, I'd say probably not so good. The territory Isabella will be stepping into has already been mapped out by Swamp Thing and Man-Thing: powerful monsters, once human, who wander into supernatural trouble not of their making. If you're going to follow this series, get used to The Elementals, they'll be around 'til the series goes belly-up. The reprint, "The Little Gypsy Tea Room," (from Amazing Adult Fantasy #13, June 1962) is one of those silly three-pagers that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko probably banged out over lunch. Bruno, the burglar is looking for a place to hide from the fuzz and forces an old gypsy woman to grant him sanctuary. She does so... by trapping him in her crystal ball.

Chris Blake: I’m accustomed to fairly ordinary storytelling from Isabella, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had concocted a group of adversaries for N’Kantu, and also a mission for him; we also have the first appearance of the mysteriously powerful scarab. Isabella sets up N’Kantu’s decision beautifully – will he, in effect, make a deal with the devil, and trade in his fellow (albeit 3000 yrs-younger) humans, so that he might have his ages-gone humanity restored? N’Kantu’s stiffening at the utterance of the word “slave” gives us a sense that he might have the capacity to resist the Elementals’ control; even if he can’t be a man again, N’Kantu still might one day be free.

Another plus is that Isabella managed to fit in an update with Dr Scarab – all in three quick panels! With a shortened page count, as much attention as possible is directed to N’Kantu and this next phase in his far-out existence.

Chris: We’ve already seen mummies, museums, muggers, motorbikes, (and man-things) from our artist, but now he gives us moonscapes and mudmen too – put it all together, and Mayerik continues to prove that he is the right choice for this title. But what is the deal with the cover? If anything, it’s even more incongruous than the previous issue’s cover had been. We’ve seen a similar problem with Frankenstein – are the covers a deliberate ploy to draw readers, or did Roy commission the cover without knowing the intended content for the issue itself?

Kull the Destroyer 15
“Wings of the Night-Beast!”
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Michael Ploog and Ernie Chua

Kull and Brule camp outside the monk’s village tending to their wounds when Santha approaches. The Pict excuses himself and Kull and Santha embrace: but the woman suddenly transforms into the winged dragon that attacked last night and flies off with the barbarian to her mountain lair. When Kull awakes he is bound alongside Ridondo, who is still alive, not yet devoured. Brule attacks along with the monks who have decided to finally stand up to their terrifying tormentor. In her reptile form, Santha flies down to engage the men below. Kull frees himself and spear in hand, leaps on the dragon’s back, fatally impaling the creature. Victorious, the fallen king once again vows to find a suitable army to wrest back the crown from Thulsa Doom. -Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn: And there we have it ladies and germs, the last gasp of Kull the Conqueror/Destroyer — at least for the moment, since Marvel will resurrect Kull the Destroyer exactly two years from now. Well not now exactly, but August 1976. And before that, the black-and-white magazine Kull and the Barbarians will debut in May 1975. Lasting a mere three issues, that mag will be a mixed bag of reprints and new stories not only featuring Kull but other Robert E. Howard characters such as Red Sonja and Solomon Kane. This “final” issue is one of the worst “final” issues ever, with nothing resolved concerning the Thulsa Doom storyline, as it simply wraps up Englehart’s paper thin two-parter about the monks and the dragon. Chua’s inks overwhelm Ploog’s pencils and the results resemble a Buscema/Chua Conan effort. We have one more reprint before we temporarily take our leave, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s “Help!” from Strange Tales #94, 1951. A man answers his phone and a strange voice begs for help. After five frustrating pages, the man smashes his phone down, breaking the earpiece and freeing the tiny alien rocketship trapped within. Ditko’s art raises this one from the usual Kull reprints but that’s not saying much. So that’s it for now Kull fans, whoever you are. See you in the funny papers down the road a spell. A Thulsa Doom spell! Bwaaahaaahaaa!

The Man-Thing 8
"The Gift of Death!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Mike Ploog
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Mike Ploog

After being hit by the boat driven by Schist and Wickham, the Man-Thing is stunned, and when the boat explodes (without men) he flees, ending up back at La Hacienda. This time he is treated kindly, and Manny trusts them. Lorena and the Captain, as they are called, lead the Man-Thing down into an underground chamber to meet the “Fathers” who want no more harm done. They are two shadowed figures who have them hook Manny up to a machine that starts to transform him back to Ted Sallis. Schist and Wickham have followed them, and try to con the Captain, but he has none of it. Manny is disturbed by the violent talk, and comes after them. Wickham falls to his death but Schist is stopped by the Fathers who, oddly, agree to Schist's business proposal of bottling and selling the waters of the fountain for profit. Schist takes a drink, then sees what the Fathers are: deformed creatures that partook of the waters themselves—500 years ago! Schist is angry, and stronger now, almost enough to fight off the Man-Thing, until the latter returns to his swampy form, and uses Schist’s fear to burn him to ashes, then return to the swamp. The Fathers concur that humans are not ready for the secret of eternal youth. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: La Hacienda take on an unexpected role here. The secret of eternal life is incongruent with greed and wealth - which destroy the effects of the fountain of youth - meant for bathing not drinking. It’s about time Schist got what’s coming to him; sad for Ted Sallis to not quite make it to human form. What exactly were the Fathers up to trying to revert Manny? Back to the swamp we go.

Mark Barsotti: Having recently raved about Mike Ploog's pencils on Man-Thing, let me now add this semi-back pedaling proviso: I think his slightly cartoony, EC-inspired style is an upgrade over the departed Val Mayerik in every aspect except for his depiction of our title character, who oft seems unfinished or unintentionally humorous. A critical conundrum to be further confronted, issue by issue...

Welcomed back at La Hacienda, the one-time Ted is on the verge of regaining his humanity, save for Schist's final a-hole interference. The greedhead's turned-into-a-monster comeuppance is satisfying, except that, as he is reduced to ash, so is Manny's (perhaps last?) chance to once again be man, not monster.

Just as well, perhaps. Even Steve Gerber's quirky genius would have trouble pumping excitement into every issue of The Terrific Ted Sallis.
Matthew Bradley: In light of this issue’s slightly-higher-than-usual Weirdness Quotient (even for a Steve Gerber Man-Thing yarn), with its cool, corpse-like Fathers, I’m a bit more forgiving of the sketchiness seen in Ploog’s “normal” characters, although obliged to admit that in this month’s debut of the companion giant-size mag, I think Chiaramonte’s inks helped. Having Manny turn back into Sallis, even partially, is not a device you want to fall back on too often, for fear—ha ha—of its losing its poignancy, but I think Steve handles it admirably here. Schist, whose plotline has ping-ponged from foreground to background for some time, meets the fate he so richly deserves, reduced to a pile of ashes from which even Hammer’s Dracula could not return...

Scott McIntyre: FINALLY! Schist is finally dead. Good lord, he was annoying. A damned fine death it was, at any rate. A really good story, toying with "curing" Manny. Of course that will never happen, but if anyone can sell that bill of goods, it's Gerber and Ploog. Well-paced, beautifully drawn and just damned interesting, this is another winner. A chapter in Manny's life ends with Schist's death. His supporting cast seems to have a heavy rotation ratio. Interesting, but logical, I guess.

Chris: The hacienda fathers pull a classic burn on Schist, as they give him exactly what he demands: “So, you want this water to drink, eh? Ok – here you are – help yourself . . .,” and Schist proves to be the victim of his own greed, in a bit of Gerber-orchestrated justice. The issue’s most powerful moment had to be when M-T held Schist by the arms, as his fading intelligence informed him that he should wait for his fear-burning power to kick in, and consume his adversary. The concept of M-T’s transformation being somehow reversible is compelling, and contributes to the pathos we associate with the character – there’s a way out, it simply isn’t known (on any level) to our swampy protagonist. Good choice by Steve to try out this idea once, rather than pin the series down in an endless, ongoing, Hulk-esque search for a remedy to Manny’s muckessence.

Giant-Size Man-Thing 1
"How Will We Keep Warm When the Last Flame Dies?"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Chiaramonte
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Mike Ploog

The Man-Thing overhears an argument at the outskirts of the swamp. Paul Benton and Professor Marshall are seeking to drive further alongside the swamp, but Akar, a member of a cult believing that entropy is the destiny of all, demand they turn back. They pull out a golden brain in a clear sphere, clearly possessing some sort of power. This “brain” causes Manny pain, and he reveals himself, to destroy it. The cultists call forth an energy demon that gives Manny a good fight. The “brain” globe falls into the water, bringing back the memory of who it once was, Joe Timms, tough guy turned radioactive brain. Hours later it emerges, taking on the form of a perfect man, and wanders into the swamp. Meanwhile Yagzan, the leader of the Entropists and a former colleague gone bad of Marshall’s, slays Akar for failing to stop the men from entering the swamp. The brain man wanders along, bumping into Benton and Marshall, who see him as a man in need, and offer him food. We soon see what their project is; a non-polluting self-sufficient prototype of a village they call Omegaville, a hope for man’s future. Richard Rory interviews Benton about the plan. Joe, now working on and living in Omegaville, has a psychic link with Yagzan (who rescued his brain from his dying body, and kept it alive) tries to call Joe forth, not knowing exactly where he is. Man-Thing witnesses, from seclusion, the Entropists burn and bury Akar’s body, leaving in horror at the flame. Joe comes forward in a trance, and Yagzan uses the psychic link to demand the brain’s return. Joe devolves into a Glob-like creature, and has a showdown with Manny, after the former destroys Omegaville. Our hero eventually prevails, and a mad Yagzan is absorbed into the clay-like remains, meeting his maker. -Jim Barwise

Jim: Poor Manny never gets a break, from Schist to Yagzan. Joe Timms has it worse; the human form he gets, when he can finally contribute to something worthwhile, doesn’t last long. Akar’s death scene was pretty horrifying, I felt, and it conveys the evil the Entropists preach. Omegaville is an interesting concept, a variation on themes both real and fictional that many hope for.

Matthew: This and its Avengers counterpart join the retitled GS Super-Stars (now Fantastic Four); rinse and repeat next month as Conan and Shang-Chi reinforce the former GS Chillers (now Dracula). In a typical bit of bizarrerie, Gerber brings us Manny’s first foe of the post-Schist era, but don’t be fooled by our future Entropic Man’s death, which proves a little less permanent as Yagzan resurfaces in later years. Filling up those “68 Big Pages” are “Ice-Monster Cometh!” (Lee/Ditko, Amazing Adult Fantasy #11, April 1962), “I Was the Invisible Man!” (Kirby, Strange Tales #67, February 1959), and “Goom! The Thing from Planet X!” (Lee/Kirby, Tales of Suspense #15, March 1961), who joins the monster rally in Hulk Annual #5.

Scott: "Giant Size Man-Thing" could easily have been the title of a porn comic. Those yuks aside, this is a fun story. Gerber and Ploog, a dream team if there ever was one, spin a nice yarn. The Glob is a natural as an adversary for Manny. To my knowledge, this is the first time a name was given to the Glob's original identity. The fight between the monsters is very well laid-out and executed. Nothing overly special here, not much to justify the higher price and added page count, but not bad all told.

Chris: Who else but Gerber could weave a tale about utopian society vs entropic cult, with the action centering around a sentient golden brain that is capable of ambulation and reformation of itself, either as man or clay-glob? M-T’s discomfort with the intense emotions affronting him allows Gerber (once again) to incorporate M-T into the story organically, without any forced “suddenly!” moments of M-T inexplicably bursting forth from the swamp.

Ploog’s casting of R.M. Nixon as Yagzan is clever, but so broad – in his hooded, heavy-browed eyes and floppy jowls – that the obvious caricature reduced my capacity to take Yagzan’s corruptive evil seriously. The “disgusting” Manny vs Glob battle features plenty of Ploogian splatters. As I was reading that passage, it occurred to me that it would be difficult to conclude a battle like this, since the antagonists should be able to continually re-form themselves; fortunately, M-T’s emotional pain from his proximity to the Yagzan-influenced Glob charges Manny up enough that he can rip up his opponent – gross! Ploog also gives us a rare flash of emotion from M-T himself, as he recoils – almost wide-eyed – from the sudden flash of the gas fire (p 25, panel 4); brilliant.

Chris: Giant-Size Man-Thing is one of only a few GS series that I own in their entirety; I recall these original stories as being of uniformly high-quality. There is a staggering 25 pages-worth of old reprints; eventually, I think we will be subjected to fewer of them. Once again, I ask why we weren’t presented with a more recent reprint from one of the b&w mags, such as Manny’s first-ever appearance, perhaps? I mean, wouldn’t that have been better than “Goom”?

The Incredible Hulk 178
"Triumph on Terra-Two"
Story by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Tony Isabella
Art by Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Alan Kupperberg
Cover by Herb Trimpe and John Romita

The Hulk is not too happy that his friend, Adam Warlock, has been turned into a cocoon, apparently dead. He takes Adam away to the far off woods where the rebel band of New-Men meets up with him. The Hulk vows to make his enemies pay for what they did to Adam. Meanwhile, Man-Beast has ordered his troops to organize for all out nuclear war. His own general knows that all will perish if a nuclear war is started so he betrays him. The Hulk and the rebel New-Men arrive to do battle with the Man-Beast and his minions. Even though he has a tough time, the Hulk is able to defeat Man-Beast. Just as he is about to kill Man-Beast for revenge, a newly resurrected, and more powerful, Adam Warlock appears to order the Hulk to stop. Using his new great powers, Warlock changes all the barbaric New-Men, including the Man-Beast, back to their original primitive animal forms. The story ends with Warlock flying off to fight for justice in other worlds, leaving the Hulk still stuck on Counter Earth. -Tom McMillion

Matthew: Per Mark Drummond’s SuperMegaMonkey comment, “FOOM #5 stated outright that this story was done to end Warlock’s dangling story and clear the deck for Starlin’s upcoming series [in February], which shows how much clout he had at Marvel early on.” As the plotline began back in May, Jim must have had Adam in mind sooner than I thought, but in any case, this Thomas/Conway/Isabella co-production resolves it beautifully, so there’s ample credit to go around. Especially memorable are the Hulk’s gamut of emotions over Adam’s death and resurrection, and the nice Trimpe/Abel full-pager of his regenerative cocoon (for which, it should be noted, there is ample precedent, dating back to his debut as “Him” in FF #66-7) in the cavern.

Chris: Many hands involved with this story: concept by Roy, plot by Gerry, script by Tony. The result isn’t the mishmash you might expect, but an ambitious, emotionally-charged story. The Hulk’s childlike handling of Warlock’s remains (“Hulk has brought you to a safe place, Warlock . . . there are only trees and rocks and bushes . . . wake up, golden-man . . .”), and his grieving once he finally accepts Warlock’s end, is touching. Hulk’s feelings are so intense that, by the end, he’s prepared not only to smash Man-Beast, but literally to kill him, which I don’t hear from Greenskin very often.

The tale of the redemption of Counter-Earth, which had been from the newsstands untimely ripp’d as of Warlock #8, is finally concluded. Who knew (did Roy? did Starlin?) the heights this character would reach in his next incarnation.

Scott: The art is quite good, but the Hulk looks like he's smiling during his rampage at the bottom of page 2. The inking on the top of page 31 looks like it was done by someone else. It smacks of John Romita's style. The Warlock saga comes to an end and Marvel's version of Christ is resurrected after his crucifixion and leaves the world behind. It's all a little on the nose for me, but it's still a decent time passer. Funny how Counter-Earth also had a "pentagon papers" scandal. I guess political corruption is a constant in the universe.

Tom McMillion: The only interesting thing about this issue, to me, is that it was confirmed that Adam Warlock's cocoon had made a brief cameo in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Here's hoping that's as far as his movie stardom goes.

Iron Man 69
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito

Iron Man’s attack breaches the undersea fortress of the Mandarin, who tells the captive Sunfire, “There is a world-wide power struggle brewing,” of which his rivalry with the Claw is but the first round. He raises the fortress to the surface on a hydraulic lift, but their battle sinks it, forcing Iron Man to rescue Sunfire; meanwhile, Happy shocks Pepper with a revelation to which we are not privy, and Marty saves Roxie from the bombing of a Vietnamese village. His heart still fragile, Iron Man is knocked out just as he is carried aloft by his boot-jets, and the Mandarin then moves to recapture his castle from the Claw’s occupation by releasing Ultimo, dormant since Avengers Special #1 (hotcha!) and transferred from South America back to China. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: An “unabashed beat’cha-over-the-head hint” hails this as “the first sign of one of Marvel’s most magnificent epics,” i.e., Friedrich’s War of the Super-Villains, which limps along until #81 amid deadline-imposed fill-ins and reprints. Although I doubt many would agree with that (there isn’t even unanimity about where it starts!), I equate it with Steinbeck’s Lennie: big and dopey yet strangely lovable. How the Mandarin knows Shellhead has a weak heart—unless he also knows his secret i.d.—I couldn’t say, but despite its generic cover and unusually dodgy Tuskosito face work, this issue is fun, while for sheer spectacle, that two-page spread of Ultimo unleashed, with the full-pager of an unconscious Iron Man soaring into space as a chaser, would be tough to beat.

Scott: Quite a good cover. Tuska is excellent at depicting Shellhead's armor and this is one of those images that would look great on a poster or t-shirt. Alas, his depiction of Asians remains borderline offensive. Still it was nice of him to give us a detailed checklist of the Mandarin's rings and what they do over on page 7. Eddie March returns and mentions that his hair is just growing back after his brain operation. Too bad nobody told Tuska, since he's sporting a pretty full 'do by today's standards. We get a double cliffhanger involving Ultimo and Iron Man…in Spaaaaace!

Master of Kung Fu 19
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Paul Gulacy and Al Milgrom
Colors by Stan Goldberg
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

In an effort to elude two master assassins sent by his father, Fu Manchu, Shang-Chi runs deeper into a Florida swamp. There, he suddenly finds himself confronted by the muck-monstrous Man-Thing. Since he cannot believe what he sees before him, S-C attributes the sight to the lingering effects of the mimosa hallucinogen Fu had exposed hi m to (as seen in MoKF #18). S-C attempts to fight the M-T, but only succeeds in getting himself stuck in the monster’s midsection. S-C is freed and revived by Lu Sun, and the two men proceed to discuss S-C’s determination to exact revenge for Fu’s past deceits. The assassins interrupt further dialogue, and the ensuing battle culminates with S-C immobilized by quicksand. The assassins are prevented from killing S-C when M-T returns; as they turn to destroy M-T, the fear underlying their bravado becomes their undoing, as contact with M-T causes them both to burn. S-C observes that, just as the M-T wreaks “havoc without thought,” S-C himself might be guilty of the same. -Chris Blake

Chris Blake: As this is Steve’s final installment of MoKF, it pains me to say that this might be the only uneven issue of the series thus far. First off, the promise of the truly offbeat pairing of S-C with M-T is barely realized. S-C’s belief in M-T as a hallucination makes sense, and the outcome of their one-sided run-in is visually amusing, but M-T then is literally left behind, with no inkling of his presence until he abruptly appears at the end to save S-C’s life (sort of a deus ex manthinga). Also, it’s nothing less than silly to suggest that the assassins might spectacularly spontaneously combust at the instant they came in contact with M-T; as readers of M-T know well, this typically is a slow burn, with the burnees only becoming more afraid (thereby increasing the deadly effect) as they realize what M-T is doing to them.

I guess I expect this Steve to provide some of the same speculation that the other Steve (Gerber, that is) offers at times to help readers understand the powerful emotional states that tend to draw M-T into the action of a story. That would be harder to achieve in this case, since, as always, S-C himself is narrator.

S-C’s conversation with Lu Sun hearkens back to Steve’s comments about his and Jim Starlin’s vision for the series – that it would involve action, but also provide a philosophical base, so that S-C’s motivation could be seen to be an outgrowth of his belief and value systems. We aren’t given any explanation of how Lu Sun got to the swamp – could he also have been a manifestation of the hallucinogen? (That would’ve been all right.) We also don’t have any pat resolution to S-C’s questions about himself and his self-appointed mission to defeat Fu, but I don’t expect Steve to offer an aphorism-neat wrap-up. The path leads S-C forward, which is as it should be – we’ll see where the path takes him.

Chris: Gulacy’s art is fine again this time. He doesn’t depict much of the detail of the swamp (not like Ploog or Mayerik, I mean), but he does offer some shadowy moonlight effects (p 3, panel 1). The letters page credits Steve as colorist, but the splash page (and our valiant blog) identifies “Stan G.” in this role; either way, the colorist effectively employs medium violet and deep blue shades to contribute to the moony mood. Letter writers are divided over whether the two-page spread is fitting for this title (I’ve already weighed in as “con”), and the trusty editor assures us that the spread experiment now is over, so the dispute is moot. That being said, and even though I had disparaged the notion that the assassins might abruptly flame-burst, the burning two-pager (p 30-31) still is an eyeful.

Mark: "Retreat" boasts one of the most unlikely pairings of Marvel heroes imaginable: the Master of Kung Fu not only coming face-to-trunk with the macabre Man-Thing, but Shang-Chi actually passing completely through Manny's mucky semi-solid form! If that don't gross out your kid sister, nothing will.

Shang's on the run in the Florida swamps after torching Fu's tanker full of drug-tainted gasoline last ish, pursued by assassins (natch). We see Sir Denis and Black Jack lead the takedown of Fu's caravan of "lorries," but the inscrutable Oriental evades capture (of course), seemingly vanishing into thin air. And the real treat is watching one Steve (Englehart) riff on the signature character of another (Gerber).

Paul Gulacy's art continues to hit the Steranko-inspired sweet spot. Forty years on, some might miss the strong resemblance between Lu Sun (who appears in the swamp to help remove Shang from Manny's mid-section) and Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine), but I enjoyed the tip of the staff to the TV show Kung Fu which, even more than Bruce Lee, sparked the KF craze in the early-'70's.

I was wondering if you can really call this a "team-up," but sure you can. Manny there for the final baddie takedown, as the two assassins, knowing know the rest.

Not a great issue, gimmicky (as are most team-ups) but loads of fun. And as Shang strides off in the last panel, it ain't hard to guess his immediate objective: a case of Right Guard and the hottest shower he can find!

Marvel Team-Up 24
The Amazing Spider-Man and Brother Voodoo in
"Moondog is Another Name for Murder!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Jim Mooney and Sal Trapani
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

Brother Voodoo materializes to help Spidey foil an attack on actress Gail Paris by members of a hedonistic voodoo cult, whose houngan, Moondog the Malicious, BV has traced from New Orleans. Gail was targeted after auditioning for an Off-Broadway voodoo play, yet when they visit the Shelby Theatre, they discover that the “play” is about to climax in an actual sacrifice, and the “audience” is composed of cult members. Our captured heroes escape an attempted burning at the stake, and BV possesses a cultist with his brother’s spirit to aid in cornering Moondog; as Drumm throws the priest from a catwalk, Moondog (“a loa—a spirit—not a living being”) flees the accountant he had possessed, whom Spidey saves with a web-sling. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: In a classic Professor Matthew Time Paradox, our review of BV’s debut ran three days before I read this; his MTU guest shot is all the more inevitable because Len also wrote his Strange Tales series, which by now is already over, but he will pop up intermittently for decades to come. To me, Moondog sounds more like a cool surfer dude than a super-villain, who fortunately is a one-shot, because despite eschewing a MARMIS, this issue is nothing to write home about, with indifferent Mooney/Trapani art and a sloppy story. One minute our heroes are dropping Gail off at the hospital, where BV is told she is doing “satisfactorily,” and the next, Spidey assumes that “hospital authorities aren’t exactly about to let two dudes dressed like us in to see her”—howzat?

Joe Tura: I always found this one intriguing, even back in '74 and even though I had no clue who the heck Brother Voodoo was. It's certainly more of a BV issue than Spidey, who besides the hilarious damage he does to the JJJ billboard on the splash page, really takes a back seat here. Still, some good fun, with a nasty villain in Moondog and a story that zips along so fast it makes your head spin.

Scott: Is Spidey really vandalizing a billboard? Sure, it's Jameson and he sucks monkey stuff, but it's still a crime. It seems rather beneath him. More effective are those times he webbed JJJ to a chair or something. Brother Voodoo isn't the slightest bit interesting. So after page three, I checked out. The art looked kind of nice, though.

Chris: An all-action issue, without any of the mood and atmosphere Len (and Gene Colan) brought to Brother Voodoo’s brief run in Strange Tales. I realize the battle takes place in a theater, but that doesn’t mean it has to be lit up like a TV studio. We get brief glimpses into Voodoo’s unusual powers, but for the most part, he’s slugging guys around. I did enjoy the contrast in styles, as Spidey keeps up his typical banter in the face of ritual human sacrifice and impending immolation.

Of all of Spidey’s pencillers, Mooney is among my least favorite. This issue helps to illustrate why – the positions and poses Mooney offers for Spidey don’t take full advantage of his athleticism, and barely employ his arachnid-derived powers. Take away the webs, and Mooney could just as easily be drawing Daredevil, or Captain America.

Luke Cage, Power Man 20
"How Like a Serpent's Tooth..."
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

Power Man is trying to rip off a suitcase, full of heroin, from the Morgan mob, but they have him surrounded. The Morgan crew can't stop Luke Cage as he survives guns, knives, fists, and even an assault from a bazooka. He takes Morgan hostage in order to escape. Back at Cottonmouth's headquarters, Power Man proves his worth when he turns over the large quantity of dope. Continuing his role as a double agent in the hopes that he can obtain information to clear his name, Cage learns the ropes of Cottonmouth's criminal empire. After he gets a good idea about how the drug enterprise is handled, Power Man calls the cops and lets them know about the felonious activities occurring at Cottonmouth's office. Cottonmouth overhears Cage diming him out and he attacks in a fury. During the fight, Cottonmouth's right hand man, Mr. Slick, accidentally gets knocked through a window and plummets to his death. Cottonmouth laughs because Mr. Slick had a photographic memory and had all of the records of Cottonmouth's wheeling and dealing memorized in his head. Any hopes Power Man had of clearing his name died along with Mr. Slick. An enraged Power Man ends the story by body slamming Cottonmouth into his desk, crushing it to pieces. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: I would just like to point out that Luke Cage has accidentally killed more villains than anybody in the history of the Marvel Universe. Whether he means to or not, Power Man is a solid hero in my book. Keep those "accidental" deaths coming, Cage!

A rather wet SPLUDD! 

Scott: Well, say what you like about George Tuska's art, but you can't deny the man puts a ton of energy into every panel. This has been the saving grace of this book, which truly lives up to its name. Cottonmouth is still a pretty ridiculous villain, with his name actually being "Cottonmouth" and with his weird facial hair and fangs. Did I miss the explanation of his formidable strength, or are we just taking this stuff as it comes? The whole idea of relying on one man's photographic memory as a records repository is totally out there. Anything could have happened to Mr. Slick at any time. Hit by a car, slip in the tub. Hell, he could have had a stroke pushing out a particularly hard poop. Very poor planning, Cottonmouth. Good thing for you Sarbanes Oxley audits were still 25 years away. You need better disaster recovery.

The Mighty Thor 226
"The Battle Beyond!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema, Mike Esposito, and Dave Hunt
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by John Romita and Frank Giacoia

The Firelord sends his signal to summon his master, Galactus, to Earth. Thor and Hercules are ready to fight but the herald wants no part of it, and flies off. As the two gods return to Dr. Blake’s office, Thor in said human form, they don’t realize a young reporter overheard their prior struggle, and the word of Galactus’ arrival is out! By the time Blake fills the Olympian in on the origin and past adventures of the mighty space being, he arrives. It turns out the quarrel is not with Earth, rather Galactus seeks Thor’s aid to battle a menace most monstrous: Ego the Living Planet. It seems Ego has gone truly mad, and threatens the safety of the universe. The two gods agree to see for themselves what Ego has become. When they arrive, the living planet blasts them, creating creatures from the ship itself to keep the others busy while Galactus fends off blasts meant for him. They manage to make it through and head for the surface, to face what?-Jim Barwise

Jim: I always found something about this issue to be very special. It was one of the first ones I owned (not quite when it first came out, that distinction is coming soon), and it has a comfortable familiarity to it. Firelord—rather aloof and mysterious-- is a new character, but he fits in well with the classics G and E. I confess to being a little sad that the goodwill between Thor and the Living Planet that ended the saga in the 160’s is gone, but a battle of this magnitude holds much promise. It isn’t really surprising that Galactus has different reasons for coming to Earth this time, and his two-page arrival splash is spectacular.

Scott: It never feels right to have Galactus come to Earth and not have the Fantastic Four involved in some way. Was Reed too busy waltzing around with Namor to notice? Amusing that Thor becomes Don Blake merely so he and Hercules could discuss the Big G without attracting undue attention. But Hercules is still a big, sprawling god. Surely he alone would be a magnet for prying eyes? And does Don really share Thor's conscious mind? Aren't they two separate people? Galactus seems out of character, actually apologizing to Thor for creating the wrong impression of his motives. Isn't Galactus above such mortal concerns? My favorite sound effect: "sheeeesh!" which sums up my feelings for this issue. Next month: "Jeeeez!"

Matthew: Romita’s splendid cover promises big things, as it were, on which the interior pretty much delivers, although Galactus is hardly the supplicant Jazzy Johnny depicts, and his arrival in his cosmic golf cart proves once again that Buscema—well inked here by Esposito—is a worthy successor to Kirby. Conway explores interesting new facets of the Big G, and revisiting his rivalry with Ego enables Gerry to build upon not only the complex Thor/Galactus relationship established by Stan, but also his own Ego Prime saga, however flawed. The literally hot-headed Firelord seems to have potential, if not yet fully fleshed out, as he and Herc vie to see who can be the bigger pill (“I swear, he is even more arrogant than thee, friend Hercules,” as Thor remarks).

Chris: Interesting twist to have Galactus (described not once, but twice, in the issue as “power incarnate”) descend to earth, not to conquer, but so he might humbly (for him) enlist allies. Why Goldilocks? It might be easy to overlook the fact that, by this moment in Marvel history, Thor has spent as much time in battle with Big G as have the FF themselves, so Galactus knows the power Thor can deliver.

The art, overall, is inconsistent. First off, what’s with the dune buggy Galactus rides down to the planet surface (p 14-15)? Big G also rides a washing machine when he flies over to confront Ego (in the flashback on p 17). The Ego-battle on p 17 is good, but would have been better with a stronger inker; Esposito’s inks have looked unfinished (more so than they usually do) since he came to this title. Best page might be p 32 (below) – high marks to Big John for daring to depict a fearful expression on the face of the mighty Galactus! Lastly, I nominate “Clud!” and “Sheeesh!” (wha -?!) for Sound Effect of the Month.

The Tomb of Dracula 23
"Shadows in the Night!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Inside Castle Dunwick, Sheila Whittier is being groomed by Dracula as his new servant. The only problem is that she is being harassed and tortured by some unseen forces. The man who was tormenting her previously had committed suicide after Dracula confronted him but it looks like he may have just been a pawn as Sheila keeps receiving strange markings on her body. She tells Dracula that she inherited the castle from her Uncle after his passing and Sheila's husband died when he was pushed down the stairs when they first moved in. As the story is being told, the painting of Dunwick, the man that owned the Castle, smiles diabolically. Resisting the urge to feast on Sheila, Drac goes out to the countryside to dine on a poor woman driving along the road. While she is in the castle alone, the ghost of Dunwick appears to Sheila. He informs her that he is really her father, and that her mother killed him to get his inheritance. Making a pact with hell itself, Dunwick came back to possess Sheila's mother's lover. Over time, he slowly drove her to suicide, but as part of his deal with Satan, Dunwick must keep killing. Sheila goes to a secret basement and she sees several skeletons, servants for Dunwich's ghost. The evil spirit's original skeleton sits on a chair, bathed in gold. Dracula returns to the castle just in time to save Sheila. The ghost orders Dracula to bow down to his commands, but Dracula rebuffs him. Using his spiritual powers, the Dunwich ghost causes a flurry of wind that picks up various pieces of furniture to smash into Dracula. Undeterred, the Count smashes the golden skeleton, causing the ghost to lose his powers and dissolve. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: One of the many things that this series is good at is incorporating different horror themes into its stories, and doing it quite well I might add. Here they take the haunted house theme and make it an interesting showdown for the Count. I get a kick how some of these underworld creatures think they can try to boss Dracula around. Man, they just have no idea who they are dealing with.

Chris: Drac certainly knows how to bring out the worst in people, as he one-ups the castle ghost in this chronicle of cruelty. Sheila seems so delicate – it’s hard to imagine how she could have survived alone in the castle for two months, but it does help to explain why she’d be desperate enough to accept Drac as her protector. Once again, Marv creates an unexpected circumstance involving Drac not having control of the situation, and his increasing frustration as a result. Marv drives up the tension as Drac fights the desire to drain Sheila’s blood; Drac then takes out his pent-up bloodlust on the helpless woman driving home. Marv tops it off with a chilling, matter-of-fact account of the human cost of Drac’s hunger, as his self-serving actions lead directly to the destruction of a small family.

I had to check, and I was surprised to see that the cover is by Kane/Palmer. There have been several instances when the cover depicted action that had nothing to do with the story, but at least the covers have fairly consistently been atmospheric – this one, possibly due to the soothing bright-blue background, didn’t convey any of the thoroughly creepy mood of the story.

Scott: Talky and difficult to get through, with none of the usual supporting characters in attendance (save Taj in a cameo), this is not Dracula's finest hour. The art is as good as always, with Tom Palmer effortlessly complementing Gene Colan's pencils. Mildly amusing, but I would have been fine if I'd missed it.

Mark: This is the first issue of TOD I bought back in '74 (and, amazingly, it's in super shape, save for the missing Marvel Value Stamp. In 1974, I hadn't heard of "boarding" your comics, but I did "bag" them, using plastic grocery store produce bags that I liberated by the dozens and then cut and taped to comic book size), and while I had no conscious memory of "Shadows in the Night!" before re-cracking the cover, it's easy to see how Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan quickly put me under their dark storytelling spell.

The Colan-Tom Palmer art seduces from the splash: a corpse in the foreground, red-lettered demonic laughter engulfing the Count and comely Sheila Whittier as they stand amid the gothic trappings of Castle Dunwick.

I'd grown up on Marvel villains, but none as darkly amoral or hypnotically compelling as Vlad, who alternatively lusts for Sheila's blood, resolves to keep her unharmed as his day-walking thrall, yet with occasional flashes of genuine compassion and tenderness peeking through ("It's almost sinful that you must be drawn into my web, girl..."), even if he instantly dismisses them.

There's a lot of small, prose-packed panels, amping up the claustrophobic sense of mounting dread as we learn about Sheila's tormentor, her uncle/father Alestar Dunwick, whose planned foul sacrifice of his own flesh and blood ("First your heart shall be plucked from you, your head shall be then severed and used in the ceremonial incense...and the rest shall be sent to roast in hell.") makes the Count's eat-to-survive attack on Caroline Bascombe (whose life Wolfman paints vividly in a few captions before it's snuffed out) seem almost benign.

"I have partaken in horrors that brave men would cringe at," the Count tells us, "yet, what I sense here in this mansion is a filth that repulses even me." Indeed. Art and script bring the final battle between the Count and Dunwick's ghost to spooktacular life: two forces of darkness pitted against each other, one completely corrupt and odious, the other retaining a deep if blood-spattered core of humanity, of honor, even if Dracula would be the first to deny it.

Not sure what compelled me to buy this book at A-1 Comics in Denver, forty years ago. But reading it again now, I understand why Tomb of Dracula was one of the very last titles I dropped as the decade rolled on, finally giving up comics for almost thirty years.

Like the Count rising from the grave, the title retains all of its dark, compelling power.

Werewolf by Night 20
"Eye of the Wolf!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin and Vince Colletta
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by David Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

Shuffling through the park, a pensive Jack Russell is watched by an unknown werewolf wearing a mysterious ring, then meets up with Coker, who’s looking for his special herbs (hi-yo!!). Arriving home, he’s met by a flirty Clary, then soon by an inquisitive Lt. Hackett, then goes out to dinner with Clary, where she’s given a ring by “snake-oil salesman” Geraldo Kabal, a ring which causes Jack to freak out a little and slip it on. Kabal gives Jack Baron Thunder’s address, and he zips out of the restaurant to go look for sister Lissa—and transforms even though the moon isn’t full! Looking like a beast but still thinking like Jack, he bursts in and is dropped to a basement, where he meets a bitchy blonde holding a Ma Mayhem mask (!), and the “sledgehammer of a fist” belonging to the beefy Baron! Werewolf springs up, the blonde spots the ring and the Baron strikes! A boisterous battle ensues with both sides gaining the upper hand (or claw), until the Baron is slammed into a machine that catches fire and crashes down on top of him! Leaving the villains behind, human-again Jack and Lissa head out, but Jack is trapped beneath some beams! The ring transforms him back and he busts out of the burning mansion, hitting the ground as Jack and driving away as the Baron’s abode explodes, vowing to find out how the Committee knew he’s a werewolf. –Joe Tura

Joe: Doug Moench takes over the writing chores on WBN for the rest of its illustrious run. According to an interview on, Moench was a pretty cool customer at the time. “I didn't feel any pressure. It was so fast back then. I was writing so much. Roy Thomas called me into his office and said they wanted more writing out of me. At that point I was already writing more pages per week than any other writer by far, plus I was working eight hours a day as an editor! Marvel suggested that I train my replacement as editor and stay home to write more. The work load, at that time, seemed to be the worst part about working for Marvel. I loved the comics so much, but I was so busy that I didn't have time to enjoy them anymore.”

But is this good for WBN? Heck, yes. A big improvement script-wise, if not still just a bit above average at best. Moench wraps up a couple of storylines as he creates a couple more, immediately putting his own stamp on this book. Heck, even the art seems to perk up slightly. Slightly….let’s not get crazy, after all, it’s still Don Perlin. Great sound effects too, for once, including the hilarious “SWUD!” on page 15. Of course, the biggest reason this book will never reach the heights of the moon (ha-ha-ha) are the usual missteps where the writer, whoever it is, tries to Raymond Chandler things up and falls flat, like the gem “My head felt like a walnut in a cast-iron nutcracker” or the ridiculous “The flames were coming close to making a pot-roast of Lissa—as I snapped the chains like so many Spaghetti-O’s.” You can’t make this up…sigh….

Future Marvel scribe and Werewolf fan (one of dozens) Peter B. Gillis (Defenders, Doctor Strange, Strikeforce: Morituri, What If? and the immortal What The?, among many others) writes into “Weremail By Night”, complaining about Mike Friedrich, saying “the biggest elements in WBN are mood and menace” and that “Mike is misplaced on this strip. Superheroes are his bag.” Hear, hear! Although not sure what his bag is. Of course, editor Roy defends Friedrich, but I don’t remember what he said (heh-heh).

P.S. The Black Knight Marvel Value Stamp is pretty freakin’ cool!

Also This Month

Crazy #6
Dead of Night #5
Journey Into Mystery #12
Kid Colt Outlaw #185
Marvel Double Feature #5
Marvel Tales #52
Mighty Marvel Western #33
Monsters on the Prowl #29
Our Love Story #29
The Outlaw Kid #23
Strange Tales #175 (all-reprint)
Two-Gun Kid #119
Uncanny Tales #5
Vault of Evil #12
War is Hell #8
Weird Wonder Tales #5
Worlds Unknown #8 (Final Issue) ->
X-Men #89


The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian 1
Cover Art by Boris Vallejo

“Curse of the Undead-Man”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Pablo Marcos

“Red Sonja”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Esteban Maroto, Neal Adams and Ernie Chua

“Conan’s Women Warriors”
Text by Fred Blosser

“The Birth of Blackmark”
Story and Art by Gil Kane

“An Atlantean in Aquilonia”
Text by Glen Lord

“The Frost Giant’s Daughter”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Smith
(reprinted from Conan the Barbarian #16, July 1972)

Since Savage Tales would be turned over to Ka-Zar, The Bore of the Jungle, in September 1974, Marvel debuts a new 84-page black-and-white magazine about everyone’s favorite Hyborian hero, ensuring that rabid Conan fans would have a total of 156 pages to devour every two months. And that’s not to mention the 68 pages that the short-lived Giant-Size Conan the Barbarian would add to the mix. While it’s hard to imagine that one character could sustain such a prodigious output, The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian will outlast the MU timeframe by a mighty margin, lasting until July 1995 and issue #235. By Crom, let's take that first, abortive step!

Like the abandoned Savage Tales, The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian offers comics featuring the Cimmerian and other characters, text articles about the Robert E. Howard universe and assorted reprints and pin-ups. But, with the first issue at least, things seemed to be more closely tied to the color comic. According to an editorial, the Conan story included here takes place between issues 42 and 43 while the Red Sonja tale starts immediately after #24.

Things kick off with “Curse of the Undead-Man.” In a back alley of Zamora, the boisterous City of Thieves, Conan and Red Sonja come across the corpse of Costranno, an evil sorcerer publicly beheaded only hours before. The wizard’s head is still separated from his body — as is a finger featuring a jewel-encrusted ring. The wary warriors leave the scene and retreat to a tavern. However, the surprised barbarian soon spies a very much alive Costranno making his way through the bar. The Cimmerian and his comely Hyrkanian companion decide to follow the resurrected wizard, who leads them to the home of the wanton Berthilda the Brythunian: her betrayal led to Costranno’s execution. Just before the vengeful villain can return the favor, Conan and Red Sonja arrive. While the She-Devil with a Sword engages the wizard’s minions, the Cimmerian takes on Costranno himself — but the warrior’s blade has no effect since the sorcerer is actually undead, reformed and brought back from the beyond by his ensorcelled ring. As Sonja makes short work of her targets, Conan manages to lop off the wizard’s hand: Costranno collapses, returning to the grave. Costranno’s remains are tossed into a pit and the ungrateful Berthilda demands that her rescuers leave. A disgusted Conan and Red Sonja agree, realizing that Costranno will most likely reform and return. Berthilda’s faraway screams seem to agree with their assumption.

While Red Sonja was created by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith in Conan the Barbarian #23 (February 1973), this story was adapted from Robert E. Howard’s unfinished “Mistress of Death,” which did feature one of the author’s actual woman warriors, Dark Agnes de Chastillon. What a name! Even though free of the restrictions of the Comics Code, Roy, Big John and Marcos don’t offer anything much more risqué than the color comic, except perhaps a bit more black blood and pierced flesh. On a scale of 1 to 10, this ranks a 7, which is on par with the stories in recent issues of Conan the Barbarian. There is a ferociously awesome two-page spread, with Conan and Red Sonja fiercely launching themselves at the undead Costranno and his heavy spiked mace.

The limply titled “Red Sonja” stands as the character’s very first solo story. After returning to Pah-Dishah to delivery the priceless dowry to King Ghannif, see here for complete details, Red Sonja is betrayed and thrown into the king’s harem. When Ghannif, along with his burly, albino bodyguard Trolus, comes to take his Hyrkanian prize, Sonja kills both of them and rides off towards further adventures, her hard-fought virginity still in tow. The 10-pager uses two of them to recap Sonja’s involvement in the Makkalet siege. The story isn’t much, and I assume of a similar theme to the Red Sonja stories to come: unless I’m wrong, the whole “no man can touch her, save one who’s defeated her in battle” will continue to loom large. Or rape her in this case. What deserves our attention is the art. Esteban Maroto is an exceptional talent and his intricate and fluid work flows over panel borders. And sheesh, Neal Adams. Nuff said.

Written by Fred Blosser, a 23-year-old contributor to The Howard Collector, “Conan’s Women Warriors” is a very nice article about the female characters that appeared in Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, from the heroic Valeria (“Red Nails”) to the villainous Thalis (“The Slithering Shadow”). Wisely, Blosser also includes a few paragraphs on Red Sonya of Rogatine, from Howard’s “The Shadow of the Vulture.” The second prose piece, “An Atlantean in Aquilonia,” is written by Glen Lord, the literary agent for REH’s estate, so you can’t get more authoritative than that. Basically, Lord details how Howard’s rejected King Kull story “By This Axe I Rule!” became the basis for Conan’s first published adventure, “The Phoenix on the Sword.” Ross Andru’s original character designs for Marvel’s Kull the Conqueror are included with the article, a neat bonus.

Now “Blackmark” is an interesting case. It’s a reformatted reprint of a paperback graphic novel written and illustrated by Gil Kane, originally published by Bantam Books in 1971. Archie Goodwin was also heavily involved. Bantam billed it as “the very first American graphic novel,” and some argue it was the very first period. Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth that borrows heavily from Howard’s Hyborian Age and the John Carter novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, it’s somewhat of an important relic. Kane did three, but only the first saw the light of day — all will supposedly be “premiered” in upcoming issues. The first, 15-page installment tells the background of Blackmark’s birth, the hero that will help humanity rise from the ashes. Too bad the text is so small and set with what looks like a typewriter.

Finally we have a reprint of Roy Thomas and Barry Smith’s “The Frost Giant’s Daughter.” As welcomed as it may be, we’ve covered that one enough already. -Thomas Flynn

Vampire Tales 6
Cover by Boris Vallejo

"Lilith, Daughter of Dracula!"
Story by Marv Wolfman and Steve Gerber
Art by Bob Brown and Tom Palmer

"A Novel Way to Die!"
Book Review by Chris Claremont

"Angie's Soul"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Balcells

"Blood Death"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"Dark Shadows"
Overview by Gerry Boudreau

"The Color of Crimson Gold"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Vicente Alcazar

"Devil's Den"
News by Carla Joseph

An axe murderer beheads Martin Gold's girlfriend right in their very own shower and then makes a getaway. The police take Martin in but can't hold him since, while he was in the stir, two more girls were murdered. Wandering the streets in a daze, Gold runs into a pretty little thing by the name of Angel O'Hara and the two quickly strike each other's fancy. Martin quickly forgets that he's only been single a few hours and takes Angel home with him, where they make mad passionate love (off-panel, of course) and settle into domestic bliss. While Martin pops out to get some burgers, Angel decides to take a shower and is a bit shocked to find the axe murderer on the other side of the curtain. Angel picks this time to call up her alter ego, "Lilith, Daughter of Dracula", who takes care of the freak with the axe and has an early supper all in one shot. Another funky vampire/superhero strip with bad art. The old question of where Don Blake disappears to when The Mighty Thor appears rears its ugly head yet again. Why does Lilith appear out of nowhere in black spandex? Does the black spandex roll up into the mist with Lilith when she disappears? Does Angel retain Lilith's memories or is she oblivious to what goes on? Some of her thought balloons suggest the former but some of her actions suggest the latter. Munching on an axe murderer in a small bathroom can cause a mess (believe me) and thus entail quite a clean up. Did Lilith get down on the tile with Ajax and a scrub brush? And, haha, Steve Gerber, I get that last panel, Angel asking if Martin got her burger with extra catsup. I hope future installments of this series are at least readable (after this issue, Lilith moves to Dracula Lives for two chapters) but I ain't holding my breath.

Drugs are rampant throughout Harlem but local hero Tom Freeman has a solution: he enlists the aid of a vampire to clean the streets of pushers and junkies. It's a win/win situation but his sister Angie doesn't see it that way and, with the help of her cop friend, Jimmy Sarran, she tries to put an end to the killing. Things don't go her way when Jimmy is murdered by an angry mob and Angie is offered up to the vampire as a sacrifice. In the end, Angie becomes part of the cleansing of the streets. Chris Claremont has the same proclivity as his brother writers to shove morals and codes down our throats while still trying to entertain us. Here he succeeds, despite a plot borrowed from The Night Stalker, to pump out a worthwhile vampire tale. "Angie's Soul" ends with the same kind of downbeat twist ending that made "Gran'ma Died Last Year" (from Haunt of Horror #2) such a powerful read. Angie Freeman would make a return appearance in Bizarre Adventures #25 (March 1981) as a all-growed up vampiress with cornrows.

Sick to death of his nagging wife and his nowhere life, George Crandall answers an ad for a swingin' time with a vampiress, figuring eternal life and sucking blood beats the TV every night. His date goes well, he gets the big kiss, and he just has to wait for the third night to rise from the dead (vampire union rules or something). George wakes up in his coffin, unaware that his thoughtful wife has decided to cremate him. If you've been reading the DC Mystery blog I write with Jack Seabrook every other Monday (and if you ain't...), you'll know my number one favorite horror artist (yes, even over Ingels and Wrightson) is Alfredo Alcala, a talent who could make even the worst stories readable. This is the first I've encountered of Alfredo here at the B&W line and he's a sight for sore eyes, believe me, after all the Esteban Maroto imitators we've had of late. Alcala has no peers, his style is unlike anyone else, and he excelled at tales set in exotic locales. Having said that, "Blood Death" is such a fun time (even with its sloppy seconds climax), it could have been illustrated by Frank Robbins and I still would have enjoyed it. Let's just thank Odin it wasn't though. I especially loved how casually George turned to the want ads to look for a vampire. Here in Arizona it's just snakes and armadillos.

After railing against Maroto imitators, wouldn't you know I'd commend one on his art lickety split? Vicente Alcazar's pencils on "The Color of Crimson Gold" are fabulous, highly atmospheric. A local villager has made a pact with a horde of vampires located in a nearby cave: they pay him gold and he sends them peasants to dine on. He hooks the fools with stories of hidden gold in the cave and they wander right onto the dinner plate. A band of gypsys gets wise to the con-man and turns the tables on him. They destroy the vampires and pillage the gold. On the way out of town though, they're cornered by an angry mob of townsfolk. Convinced the gypsys are responsible for the dwindling population, the mob burns them at the stake as a few escaped vampires hang back and await the leftovers. I thought for sure we were going to get the oldest cliche in horror comics (the gypsys are actually werewolves here to take over vampire territory) but, no, instead we get a nasty wrap-up where no one wins. Hey, three out of four of the stories this issue were keepers. That's a pretty good percentage for the B&Ws.

I love Carla Joseph's news columns. Not only are they full of old news and films that had been released decades before, but Carla doesn't seem to be able to distinguish genre fare from mainstream film when she's clipping those Variety items. Here she notes a great new horror film to be released in the future, The Drowning Pool, which actually is nothing close to a horror film but a noir with Paul Newman. Joseph also reiterates her stance on The Exorcist, a film she weighed in on in the roundtable discussion in Haunt of Horror #2. Well, kinda. Carla famously noted that The Exorcist was a film she thought less and less of as she worked her way through her work week. Evidently, our movie mistress must have written this column before her view went from classic to trash. In "Devil's Den", the always quotable Carla says: "We emphatically believe that this issue's column would not be complete without some works (sic) on this hair-raising spine-tingler that is destined to become one of the all-time great classics of the horror genre." Incredibly, she goes on to say the film has "no substance" compared to the novel but "(d)espite this disparity between novel and screenplay, the film stands on its own as a masterpiece of horror and spectacle." Stay tuned for Carla's new column in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu where she proclaims Stan Lee the greatest martial arts master of all time. -Peter Enfantino

Monsters Unleashed 7
Cover by Richard Hescox

"A Tale of Two Monsters!
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Val Mayerik

"The Monster in the Mist"
Story Uncredited
Art by Al Williamson
(reprinted from Astonishing #60, April 1957)

"The Frankenstein Legend"
Book Review by Alan Gold

"Bleeding Stones"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Vicente Alcazar

"Madness Under a Midsummer Moon"
Text Story by Gerry Conway

"Blind Man's Bluff"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Carlos Freixas

"Monsters in the Media"
News by Carla Joseph

The Frankenstein Monster sits and listens patiently as the trapeze artist tells him how he came to be just another unlucky stiff stuck in the body of... an unlucky stiff. The mysterious man behind the curtain who has been planning all the mayhem (and controls the body the trapeze artist is trapped in) orders the corpse to shamble to his residence and bring the big guy with him. Once they step inside the eerie mansion, trapeze guy collapses, dead, and the floor opens, sending the Monster down a slide into the clutches of the controller, a twisted freak who lords over a horde of nasty subjects. This series continues to spiral down into a meandering time-waster. Some time-wasters are good; not this one. More and more, I get the feeling that Doug Moench never had a clue where to take this strip so he'd just get by from issue to issue. In "A Tale of Two Monsters", Doug stops the "action" for a detailed and unremarkable flashback/origin of a character he kills off three pages later. Other than that, absolutely nothing happens. We finally get to see who's behind the "orchestration" of our little drama and it's just another freak. This series has cornered the market on freaks; they've become the go-to plot device for Moench. I've said it before and I'll doubtless say it until this series ends -- it's a downright dirty shame when you think back to what a glory the first few issues of The Monster of Frankenstein was and then read the "latest" installment there or in Monsters Unleashed.

"Blind Man's Bluff"
"Bleeding Stones" may have been Doug Moench's offer to fans who'd written him off because of the Frankenstein debacle. A tyrannical general demands a priest pay taxes on his church or the holy house will be brought down. Meanwhile, we discover that the architect who sculpted the gargoyles for the church stashed a fortune in gold coins inside the statues. When the architect badly beats the priest, the gargoyles come to life and exact revenge. A strange story this one in that Moench introduces who we assume to be the "bad guy" (the general) and then writes him out of the script in order to make way for a completely different villain. The "gargoyles come to life" theme has been done much better (perhaps the best example being Jack Oleck's "The House of Gargoyles" from House of Mystery #175, August 1968) than this but it's still a fun time. Not so much fun is "Blind Man's Bluff," a Curse of the Demon knock-off that adds nothing to the "white man pillages ancient temple and then pays the price" cliche. "Blind Man's Bluff" seems almost a sequel to last issue's "Darkflame!" (also by the Conway/Freixas team) in that Conway patches together bits of old horror movies in a script and then hands it over to Carlos Freixas, who obviously has a very limited imagination when it comes to monsters. "Bluff"'s Ch'Manu has the same overall look as the Godzilla rip-off known as "Darkflame!" The title, by the way, gives away the lame twist.

Rounding out the issue is "The Monster in the Mist," a reprint featuring sharp art by Al Williamson and a laugh-out-loud expository; Carla Joseph's usual mumblings about genre cinema (which, more and more, look as though they were lifted from Famous Monsters); and a Werewolf by Night text story with some nice spot illos by Pat Broderick and Klaus Janson.

"The Monster in the Mist"

Special mention must be made of the idiotic review of a very good book, Don Glut's The Frankenstein Legend. Glut wrote two indispensable books on horror icons, this one and The Dracula Book. Neither one is above criticism (but I can't find anything to complain about either, sorry) but Gold seems to hate the book because it's full of plot summaries and other real icky stuff. How can anyone take seriously a critic who exclaims (in crayon, no doubt) "Hammer had a chance for fresh thinking but didn't accept the challenge. Their Frankenstein films add noting to "The Legend." They created no permanent image to compete with Universal's, so this chapter, like the one before it (on the equally maligned Universal F films- PE) before it and those that follow, would probably have been better as a footnote or an appendix somewhere." In the end, Gold could have saved three pages of text and simply stated "I din't like it cuz I dunt like Frankastyn!"-Peter Enfantino

"Bleeding Stones"

Planet of the Apes 1
Cover by Bob Larkin

"Terror on the Planet of the Apes"
Story by Gerry Conway and Doug Moench
Art by Mike Ploog

"Escape from the Battle for the
Conquest Beneath the Planet of the Apes"
Text by Gary Gerani

"Rod Serling Recalls"
Text by David Johnson

"The Face of the Apes"
Text by Ed Lawrence

"Planet of the Apes"
"Chapter One"
Story Adaptation by Doug Moench
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito

“Where Man Once Stood Supreme—Now Rule the Beasts!” Thus begins one of the few Marvel Mags that I absolutely HAD to have! After all, one of the best weeks of the year was always “Apes Week” on the immortal 4:30 Movie, so this was a natural for 7-year old professor Joe. Although I will admit my timing is most likely off, but who cares! I still had to have this mag, being a huge Apes fan.

Things kick off with an “unblushingly self-indulgent editorial” (as usual) by Roy Thomas where the Rascally One gets to hear himself speak, telling the slightly confusing story of why this mag exists. Topps Chewing Gum exec Len Brown brought up the idea to Roy of taking a look at the Planet of the Apes franchise, and a skeptical Stan Lee gave him the go-ahead, but Roy procrastinated a bit. Until Brown mentioned it again, bringing a ton of info about POTA’s popularity, which led to lots of monkeying around (ba-dum-bump…kissshh) with Twentieth Century Fox, before eventually this mag swung into action.

Next we get the best part of the whole mag, “Terror On The Planet of The Apes”—a Mike Ploog original! Thankfully for the readers, “Ploog practically threatened bodily harm to one and all if he wasn’t allowed to draw the series” according to Roy, with Doug Moench scripting an idea by Gerry Conway for the “6th Planet of the Apes movie”. And off we go….

Two friends, human Jason and ape Alexander go to see a speech by The Lawgiver, who announces he is leaving and bumbling brother Xavier will be in charge. Soon after, Alex’s father is beaten up for being a traitor, and Jason’s parents are killed by angry apes. The nasty simians are led by Peace Officer Brutus, leading a double life. Then Jason & Alex are captured by the nasties and they watch as Brutus kills his wife Zena. Jason is blamed for the death, put on a quick, unforgiving trial and sentenced to death. But Alex helps him escape and the two head towards The Forbidden Zone, and the Lawgiver.

A boffo start to an epic tale! Fabulous black and white art by my beloved Ploog, a nice script, and lots of pathos, suspense, action, intrigue and sci-fi shenagnians rolled into one. I only hope we make it until the end, I never got to read the last 4-5 chapters so I have no clue how this ended! The journey of reliving it will be fun though…

Following this, we get a wordy recap of the Apes series by Gary Gerani that I skipped almost as fast as I did in 1974. Then a great, if not oddly structured, interview with the fantastic Rod Serling, one of my heroes growing up, believe it or not. Then another article, this one about make-up genius John Chambers, which is very technical and sort of yawn-inducing, but maybe because it’s 11:20pm when I’m writing this.

Then finally we are rewarded for our patience with the beginning of the 6-part comic book adaptation of the brilliant 1968 film Planet of the Apes. Drawn by George Tuska and Mike Esposito, it’s better than you would think art-wise, probably because of the inks. Interestingly enough, no resemblance to Chuck Heston at all for Taylor. More like Tony Stark to be honest. But they include lots of nice little touches from the film, which was neat. This chapter takes us from the opening crash landing of the spaceship through the three astronauts getting waylaid with other humans by “apes on horseback”, ending with Taylor getting shot in the throat. All in all, a good example of “First Issue Phantasmagoria!”–Joe Tura

"Terror on the Planet of the Apes" was created to be like a sixth film in the series and it certainly isn't any worse than the final live action film. It's not all that complex, but I could definitely see this being made as a low budget continuation after Battle. Jason and Alex are decently fleshed out and likable enough protagonists, with Brutus being the Ursus stand-in. Mike Ploog acquits himself well and there is a good, if obvious, commentary about white supremacy. The adaptation of the first "Apes" film is fairly straightforward, even though nobody looks like the actors, presumably for rights reasons. Honestly, Taylor couldn't look any less like Charlton Heston if he was black and female. -Scott McIntyre

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 3
Cover by Neal Adams

"The Trail of the Ninja"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin

"Black Belt Jones"
Film Review by Tony Isabella

"Angela Mao - A New Superstar Rises"
Profile by John David Warner

"Sweep Your Way to Victory"
Text by Frank McLaughlin
"The Dragon Has Entered!"
Film Review by Don McGregor

"Web of Bleeding Vipers!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Gulacy and Al Milgrom

Another huge helping of articles about the latest martial arts movies, new martial arts stars, martial arts reviews, martial arts recipes, how to pick up girls at bars with martial arts, how Tony Isabella cuts a pizza with his fists of fury, zzzzzzzzz......

There are a couple of illustrated martial arts adventures I can talk about if anyone is still reading this. Still searching for the evil mastermind who killed their dojo, The Sons of the Tiger find "The Trail of the Ninja" leads to a wharf in San Francisco. There they discover, at last, the man they've been searching for, Lo Chin, a martial arts expert who wants to fill the streets of San Fran with opium and has the muscle to pull it off. No matter where The Sons of the Tiger go, there always seems to be a band of chop-socky assassins in wait and this is no exception. Panel upon panel of "Hii-Ya" and roundhouse kicks leave no room for story development or interesting sub-plots. "The Trail of the Ninja" is merely a reworking of the last two Sons of the Tigers chapters. The warehouse scene, where Lin Sun is trussed up in chains and hung from a killing height while the baddie gloats, reads like something out of the Adam West Batman show.... without the humor. There are some nice long two-page panel arrangements that are almost Steranko-esque but that doesn't save this from being just the same ol' same ol'.

Shang-Chi's aid is enlisted by a very pretty girl who has some issues: there are lots of nasty looking fellas out to kill her. Turns out she's run afoul of an evil drug lord in Chinatown nicknamed "The Adder." Shang must defeat the Adder's men and then the Adder himself in vicious hand-to-hand combat. Once the villain has been defeated, the girl lets on to Shang that the Adder was her father and he'd do anything to hold on to his empire, even murder his own daughter. Shang nods in sympathy. "Web of Bleeding Vipers" is a good, solid story with an ironic conclusion. These two would make a good pair but the babe doesn't know kung fu so it's one and done for her. Paul Gulacy's art is pretty rough here (faces look almost lop-sided in several panels) but I understand it gets better over his run on the color Master of Kung Fu. Man, these Chinese cats dig their opium dens. -Peter Enfantino