Wednesday, August 13, 2014

July 1974 Part Two: At Long Last! The Return of the Guardians of the Galaxy!

The Incredible Hulk 177
"Peril of the Plural Planet!
Story by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway
Art by Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Herb Trimpe and Frank Giacoia

Bruce Banner has been captured by the Man-Beast and his crew of New-Men. They implant a device inside of Banner's head to control him but the pain causes him to transform into the Hulk. He busts his way out of their lair and is found by rebels loyal to Adam Warlock. One of them, Porcupinus, recognizes the Hulk from a previous encounter and convinces the monster to go back with them to their secret headquarters where a newly escaped Adam Warlock has been waiting. When Man-Beast finds their location, he activates the device implanted in the Hulk's head and the behemoth goes berserk, trashing Warlock's headquarters. Man-Beast and company use the chaos to their advantage as they storm the place and take everyone captive. Transforming himself into the guise of the human president, Man-Beast uses his hypnotic powers to brainwash everyone in America into believing that Warlock is an enemy who should be put to death. The story ends with Warlock being publicly executed and transforming back into a cocoon.
-Tom McMillion

Chris Blake: Ok, so we all know that Warlock isn’t really dead –right?  But wait – this is Conway the Killer we’re talking about here – did you hear what he did to poor Gwen Stacy?  Whoa . . . so, this could be it for the golden would-be-redeemer alien.  Gerry lays the Christ-parallels on heavier here than Roy et al did in Warlock’s own (abruptly cancelled) title.  There was plentiful discussion in the lettercols about Warlock’s character being open to interpretation – but Gerry throws any subtlety out the window, as he employs overt New Testament references like Warlock’s Last Supper, and Warlock’s plea to the High Evolutionary – while on his cross, no less – not to “abandon” him.  So, if Gerry wants us to invest fully in the notion of Warlock as a Christ figure, and since we’ve seen Warlock emerge from a cocoon once before, then the possibility of Warlock not achieving a resurrection seems entirely unlikely.  With that in mind, how seriously should we take Warlock’s heavily-weighted death moment at the end of this issue?

Did everyone enjoy the THX-1138 license plate (p 16, pnl 4)?  It’s probably not the first time it’s appeared, and it’s certainly not the last.  Little discoveries like that always gives me a grin.

Matthew Bradley: I presume that to a large degree, Gerry is playing out Roy’s vision, if only because it adheres so closely to the Biblical template established in Marvel Premiere #1, and I’m sure there are those who dislike the obvious Christ parallel; to me, it’s a hallmark of the Bronze Age’s diversity and maturity, so probably either you like it or you don’t. The standard-issue Trimpe/Abel art doesn’t do my beloved Warlock any favors, but that’s okay, because the writing is the star here, and I’m man enough to admit that Conway knocks it out of the park. Adam and Hulk are literally worlds apart, yet Gerry nails both characters as well as the unique—and, to me, deeply moving—dynamic between them…and don’t think I missed that THX-1138 license plate.

Scott McIntyre: The Christ imagery is laid on with a shovel, as is par for the course with Warlock. That was one of the reasons I didn't follow that book. As a kid, however, a lot of it went right over my head, since I wasn't brought up in a religious home. Other than that, it's a really good story and the new supporting characters of Ben Vincent and June Wolper are well detailed in their spare page time. They come across as real people and quite likable, and it's a shame the Hulk didn't get a supporting cast of that quality. They're also very well-drawn and even though Jack Abel is still on the inks, they seem different somehow. More realistic.

The inking overall is better this issue, and the pacing of the story is just about perfect. At the end, Gerry Conway assures us there will be a next issue, which is odd. Why wouldn't there be? Because Warlock was "killed?" It's not his book. Whatever, this is a solid chapter in a decent saga. One of the better reads in recent times.

Jungle Action 10
The Black Panther in
"King Cadaver is Alive and Well and Living in Wakanda"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Billy Graham and Klaus Janson
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by David Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

T’Challa had left the palace to steal a few moments of quiet contemplation, and instead finds himself fighting for survival against a giant crocodile.  T’Challa speaks with Monica about his efforts to clear her of Zatama’s murder, when Karota returns to the court.  The prince recalls her husband M’Jumbak’s death the night before, and returns to the burial ground to claim his body.  Once again, the minions of Baron Macabre rise from the ground to attack the Panther.  This time, T’Challa grabs one of the attackers, and forces him to reveal that Macabre can be found in the dark realm of King Cadaver, beneath the burial ground.  The Panther confronts his adversaries in a disorienting hall of mirrors, and feels the grotesque Cadaver trying to gain control of his mind.  T’Challa exposes Macabre’s disguise, but finds that Cadaver, somehow, is not wearing a costume – his bloated, hideous face, somehow, is real.  T’Challa hurls Cadaver thru the last mirror, and finds a huge underground complex, which tells the Panther one thing: his Rival, Killmonger, has been “raiding right in the heart of Central Wakanda!” -Chris Blake

Chris: This issue starts out with a strange series of parallels with JA #9: a battle with a wild creature (we’re not going to be doing this every issue, Don, are we?  I realize the title is Jungle Action, but there’s no need to take that so literally); T’Challa conferring with palace personnel; a meeting with a desperate Karota; the Panther’s encounter with Macabre’s seemingly re-animated soldiers.  It isn’t until the bottom of the eighth page of the story – and remember, we have a shortened story to work with as it is – before this issue begins to stand on its own, as T’Challa forcefully demands information about his tormenters.  T’Challa has been on the defensive for so long, that it’s refreshing to see him take arms against the Killmonger-orchestrated sea of troubles.  Still, the outcome shouldn’t have been so much of a surprise – didn’t we already see in a previous issue that Killmonger was tunneling under the vibranium mines, so he could steal it out from below?

Billy Graham is on a short list of appropriate choices as Buckler’s full-time replacement.  Right away, Graham gets the Panther’s lithe physicality.  On a different note, Graham brings more detail (than his predecessors had) to the palace throne room.  The two-page confrontation with Macabre and Cadaver is a masterstroke, not only because of the Panther’s ready-positioning, but also his ghostly mirror-image before him; in addition, Cadaver’s bizarre appearance could be psychosis-inducing on its own, without his hypnotic powers.  Janson’s inks continue to be on-target.

On the letters page, we finally get a (lengthy) excuse for the long delay between JA #8 and #9.  It turns out that the paper shortage required three titles to be pushed back, and JA #9 was one of them.  I don’t suppose that one of the all-reprint titles might’ve been chosen instead for this sad duty, do you?  For instance, how many Western reprints is Marvel running these days –were they all on schedule?  Clearly, there aren’t enough homework-hungry dog stories to go around, around here.

Matthew: The lettercol discusses supplements such as this issue’s “Black Panther Artistry,” featuring a Kirby prototype (tentatively called the Coal Tiger!) and a Buckler/Janson portrait of Killmonger, plus a full-page next-ish blurb. These “are supplied compliments of several people…who have offered their time and efforts to Don so that reprint material can be held to a minimum. If having the Panther remain at 15 pages means it will survive as a series, we can’t be entirely against it.” Certainly no complaints about the work of incoming penciler Graham, who hits the ground running, and I guess a mag called Jungle Action can’t stint on the action, but devoting 20% of those pages to the battle with a crocodile almost seems like a luxury.

Ka-Zar 4
"Into the Shadows of Chaos"
Story by "Bullpen West" and Mike Friedrich
Art by Don Heck and Mike Royer
Colors by Goerge Roussos
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Frank Brunner

Full of bravado, Ka-Zar and Zabu sneak attack Maa-Gor and El Tigre, who hold Bobbie Morse captive, with M-G using judo on K-Z (yes, judo…sigh...) thanks to his increased brainpower, and El Tigre trying his best to mentally control the giant gato. A hateful M-G is able to defeat the Jungle Lord, stopping short of killing him, while Zabu succumbs also, just as trusty Tongah and the Fall People arrive to help, but they’re bested before you can say “Mystic Mists”. A tied-up Ka-Zar tells a gullible El Tigre of the vibranium hidden in the Savage Land, while Maa-Gor uses his new powers to “talk to the world”, which gets the attention of Nick Fury in a too-brief cameo. El Tigre’s greed gets the better of him, and K-Z is able to get Zabu to attack, but the blonde beefcake breaks free and stops his partner before he kills the swarthy South American, then heads off after Maa-Gor, who is soaking up the color from the landscape, using the life force to resurrect his old Man-Ape tribe. —Joe Tura              

Joe: This issue is “Plotted by Bullpen West.” Yeah, and? I mean, this is just Mediocrity Central but at least there are more people to share the blame. First summary I’ve written so far that I didn’t use an exclamation point, I think! So many wordy captions in Part One. Then there’s wacky, borderline dreck dialogue in Part Two to make up for that. And lots of odd expressions art-wise, all throughout, with K-Z looking different panel to panel sometimes. Page 22 is the worst offender.

I did get a chuckle from El Tigre saying “It is no use! The sabertooth [sic] has trapped me upon this unsturdy tree limb!” which reminded me of the famous “Readin’ And Writin’” episode of The Little Rascals, when Breezy Brisbane mocks nerdy Sherwood for a poem which contains this line: “I clumb to get the daffodil/out on a limb so thin”, except that the Rascals are actually enjoyable! And why is Maa-Gor not colored in on page 6? Budget overrun? The one page “Ka-Zar’s Lair” is also a waste, but then again it’s one less page to read of the “story”. Such a shame to waste a pretty good Brunner cover. How many issues are left of this nonsense? Sixteen? Oh, man…

Co-Zar or Ka-Nan?

The Man-Thing 7
"The Old Die Young!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Mike Ploog
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia

The Man-Thing watches as F.A. Schist and crew pack up their equipment; an energy shortage has made his plans to develop the swamp into an airport useless. He reveals to Wickham that he really wanted to come to the swamp to find a secret of eternal youth, something he believed to be here. Moving on, a trap in the form of a net covers Manny, a trap he can’t resist by brute force, but he can by allowing himself to ooze through it. He does this after allowing the men—dressed as ancient warriors-- to lead him for a ways. They flee and he follows the trail of fear, catching some. The ones that get ahead, soon mysteriously die when they reach a pool of water, just outside the archway leading to a town within the swamp, a Shangri-La of sorts. Its people are not all friendly, but a good-hearted woman tosses an urn of water at the Man-Thing, some sort of life-giving water. It seems to have the reverse effect on the creature, and he barely makes it to the swamp again. He gets there just in time to see Schist and Wickham heading his way in a speedboat. They notice one of his hands is …human.
-Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: This stuff is right up Man-Thing’s alley. A magical town in the middle of a swamp! He senses its beauty, yet it brings no beauty to him. It’s interesting, as Manny doesn’t always pick up on these things. Sorry to see Ruth depart the scene, I guess other plans are in the works for Rory. La Hacienda must have some significance here beyond a change of venues.

Mark Barsotti: Historical Aside: having been one of 125,000 attendees at the recent 45th annual Comic Con in San Diego, I have to note the plug for the fifth CC on the "BOMBSHELL BULLPEN BONUS PAGE," special guests to include Marvel editor Roy Thomas. From 500 folks in the basement of a hotel to mobs of Cos-Play Kids thronging downtown San Diego and Marvel at the center of the pop culture universe, 40 years later. Who'da thunk it?

Behind a second-rate Ron Wilson cover that has little to do with our tale, "The Old Die Young" reveals construction magnate F. A. Schist's real interest in the swamp (beside the millions he'd have made on the abortive airport project) Manny calls home. F.A.'s been searching for the honest to Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth! Seems a quixotic quest for a hard-bitten business man (whom artist Mike Ploog has given Elvis-in-Vegas sideburns and dressed in a suit, vest, and Homburg, like Schist just stepped from a Theodore Dreiser novel), but the only backstory Gerber provides is Schist's assertion that, "I've studied the question for years."

As F.A. searches for the FOY, our mindless mud-pie finds it, after a band of centuries old conquistadors net him on what turns out to have been a yet-unexplained humanitarian mission to offer Manny shelter in the hidden confines of La Hacienda.

Scott: Rather a disappointing story following the really incredible two-part "clown who cried" story. We also usher out some characters who really felt like they were going to be long term, mainly Ruth Hart and then Ayla Prentiss. The jury is out about Richard Rory, however. Now that he became stronger and more likable, I would be disappointed to see him go. It's already a bummer about the women. If Rory goes, then who is Manny's primary supporting character? Schist! This guy who should have been killed off three stories ago continues to return. He's not even a fun character to revisit. Now given the hoary old chestnut of "the fountain of youth" to his motivation, he's just more of a caricature. On the plus side, as always, is Mike Ploog. He still keeps it spooky and honest.

Matthew: Well, Gerber certainly can’t be accused of rushing things, since he introduced Schist a full ten issues ago, yet we’re only now learning why old F.A. was so interested in that bloody swamp in the first place; dare I say, Schist happens? As cliffhanger endings go, Manny staring down the metaphoric barrel of a racing speedboat is pretty good, even allowing for his legendary resilience, and the fact that Steve played the Sallis card a little more heavily than usual in the early part of the issue then falls into place. Despite Ploog’s obvious suitability for the material, I’m finding his self-inked rendition of Manny himself a little cartoony for my tastes; meanwhile, I’m happy to see Rory kept in play (even if he is deprived of female companionship).

Chris: Steve continues to allow his flights of fancy to take Man-Thing just about anywhere. And we, Steve’s willing fools, follow along. Schist reveals that he was drawn to the swamp so he might find the legendary Fountain of Youth, and voila, Steve clues us in to this place’s actual existence. Away we go!

What could Man-Thing’s apparent partial restoration to humanity possibly mean to him? Steve routinely points out that M-T doesn’t reason, or plan, or think in any recognizable way. He reacts; he’s drawn to, or repulsed by, intense emotion – that’s about it. If anything, his terribly limited cognitive functioning might have spared Ted Sallis from inconsolable insanity, if he were to be aware of his transformation. But what if his exposure to the fountain’s waters were to begin to change him back, gradually, so that he would regain some self-awareness, and see himself for what he has become . . ?

Chiaramonte did very well by Ploog’s art over the past two issues – so well in fact that I can’t honestly say that Ploog’s self-inked art is dramatically better. But of course, there are highlights: Manny’s initial struggle with the net, which conveys a sense of the net’s weight, and Manny’s muckiness sticking him more closely in it (p 7); Manny’s “poor Yorick” moment with the skull, as he seems to be peering closely, and trying to derive meaning from it (above); Manny’s claws, as he first recoils from the bullets, then begins to reach (still smoking from the hot lead) toward his assailant (p 23). Lastly, La Hacienda (p 26) is quite inviting, isn’t it? Not a bad place to spend a few hundred years.

Mark: Meanwhile in sub-plot land, Richard Rory lands a midnight DJ gig on Citrusville's WNRV, right before biker babe Ruth Hart dumps him to head home to St Louie and finish school, leaving Richie alone to program his first night's Heartbreak Hotel playlist.

Manny has by now oozed through the net, unexpectedly flash-fried one of the ancient Spaniards and chased the others, only to find them dead and decomposing at the moss-covered entrance to La Hacienda. There a goateed, jodhpur-wearing old coot excoriates Manny, declaring, "We had hoped to save you, let you share our shelter!" before opening up with a Schmeisser sub-machine gun. Bullets can't hurt our anti-hero, of course, and he mixes it up with more conquistadors before a hot babe dressed like Little Red Riding Hood douses MT with waters from the rainbow fountain, inflicting great pain and causing Manny to retreat back into the swamp...

...right into the path of Schist and his mad scientist sidekick, bearing down on him in a hydrofoil!

Marvel Premiere 16
Iron Fist in
“Heart of the Dragon!”
Story by Len Wein
Art by Larry Hama and Dick Giordano
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Gaspar Saladino
Cover by Gil Kane and Dick Giordano

Stalking the streets of New York City searching for Harold Meachum, the man who killed his father and caused the death of his mother, Iron Fist is attacked by thugs who were paid to either capture or kill him. Cracked on the head by a pipe, the thoughts of the dazed Iron Fist return to the hidden city of K’un-Lun. After the death of his parents, a vengeful Danny Rand is brought before Yu-Ti, the August Personage in Jade. After warning the boy that revenge is a weapon that cuts two ways, the K’un-Lun leader hands Danny off to Lei Kung, The Thunderer, for martial arts training. Back to the present, the green garbed hero recovers from the blow and chases the goons off. Returning to his memories, Iron Fist remembers how he gained the powers of the iron fist by killing the dragon Shou-Lao — burning the serpentine tattoo into his chest in the process — and repeatingly plunging his hands into a fiery brazier hidden in the dead beast’s lair. Back in the present, the kung fu master is now attacked by another bounty hunter, Scythe, a costumed creep wielding a kusari-gama, a weighted chain with a razored blade on one end and a studded steel ball on the other. Again, Iron Fist recalls his past and how he turned down the chance to live as an immortal in K’un-Lun: instead, still bent on revenge, the living weapon leaves the hidden city the next day, the same occasion that it appears in the human world once every ten years. Back in the Big Apple, Iron Fist and Scythe engage in a back-and-forth battle, until Rand’s iron fist power smashes the villain’s weapon. In defeat, Scythe reveals that he was hired by a man named Meachum. -Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn: For the first two issues at least, it seems that every time Iron Fist takes a licking, it triggers a trip down memory lane. But I assume that the use of this plot contrivance is over, since the full origin of the living weapon has now been revealed. Len Wein picks up where Roy left off, but the results seem a bit lacking. Scythe is a ho-hum baddie at best and, not surprisingly, this marks his one and only appearance. The splash page trumpets the introduction of the “pulse-pounding penciling of Larry Hama,” but I didn’t experience any chest pains while reading the issue. This is indeed Hama’s first Marvel work, and while having an Asian-American artist seems like a natural, the art is a bit flat, the backgrounds very plain in particular. Now I totally understand that Iron Fist needed to get his pound of flesh, but I wonder how the series would have turned out if he had stayed in K’un-Lun instead of entering the regular Marvel universe. Could have been interesting setting the stories in another, mystical world. Then again, we wouldn’t have had the experience of Greg LaRocque’s pencils on Power Man/Iron Fist. Sorry, just threw up in my mouth a little.

Scott: Dick Giordano! Oh man, his inking makes this book soar! My favorite Batman inker, he only needed Neal Adams to make it perfect. Instead we have Larry Hama, which is far from a bad thing, mind you. This looks like a DC title, which in itself is not bad either. It's also appropriate since Iron Fist's continued origin plays very much like an up-to-date Batman/League of Shadows flashback. It's a good, detailed beginning, continuing from the auspicious start in the previous issue. Looking good so far.

Chris: If anything, the in-depth origin story helps us clearly distinguish Danny Rand from Shang-Chi.
 Both men are matchless masters of martial arts, both are loners, both are still unfamiliar with the world around them.  But, while both are single-minded in their purpose, S-C’s determination to take down Fu Manchu has to do with Fu’s deception, and dastardly use for his own purposes, of S-C.  Danny sees Meachum as having taken everything from him: his family, his youth, his innocence, even his future – after all, Danny hasn’t given any thought to what might happen in his life, post-Meachum, has he?  Yu-ti (who, all along, was Danny’s uncle? Did he wear the august jade hood for Thanksgiving dinner? If I’d known that, it had slipped my memory, or maybe it’s downplayed going forward) and his admonishments against revenge and hatred provide a counterpoint to Danny’s outlook – we’ll see if the wisdom of Yu-ti carries any meaning for Danny, some other day.

Matthew: Per the Bullpen Page, incoming penciler Hama is “knowledgeable in karate, kung fu, and the martial arts in general,” on whose current popularity Tony Isabella holds forth in the lettercol, it being too soon for feedback on IF’s debut. Returning inker Giordano’s work once again has an unfinished feel that surprised me after his polished Sons of the Tiger outing in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1; he and “Lethal Larry” will stick around for three more issues, but Wein’s script is a one-off, with a forgettable villain whose only other appearance is in DHOKF #15. That rightly allows Len to focus on completing the origin Roy began, which is fascinating in its own right and, as I recall, will be considerably embellished as the strip evolves.

Marvel Spotlight 16
The Son of Satan in 
"4000 Holes in Forest Park!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Jim Mooney and Sal Trapani
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Charlotte Jetter
Cover by John Romita

News has broken around the country about 4000 identically-sized holes that have inexplicably appeared in St Louis’ Forest Park.  Daimon and his colleagues, Katherine and Byron, decide to investigate.  Cultists have flocked to the city and converged on the park, foretelling doom.  Daimon is recognized as the same person who had battled Baphomet, and is mistaken as having fought that Satanaic manifestation in order to gain “dominion over our city!”  Daimon finds himself closed in by sword-bearing assailants, and transforms himself to the Son of Satan.  As the fight intensifies, Daimon feels his control slip, and momentarily allows the evil aspect of his power to dominate. Katherine prevents Daimon from incinerating cultists, but the diverted soulfire ignites the 4000 holes.  The fire coalesces into the form of the legendary dragon Kometes, whose appearance is a harbinger of destruction.  Daimon resolves to dismiss the threat by returning to the time of Kometes’ previous appearance, when its presence preceded the destruction of Atlantis.  Daimon forms a ring of soulfire, as he, Byron, and Katherine are transported back 20,000 years, and find themselves outside the gates of – Atlantis! -Chris Blake

Chris: This serves as a useful first chapter to Daimon’s Atlantis story (on the letters page, Steve sounds excited about revisiting the subject matter he had covered in the “Tales of Atlantis” feature of Sub-Mariner).  Daimon now undertakes his transformation by forming the sign of the trident with both hands, which is useful.  Steve is sure to remind us that the change to SoS has inherent risks, and that Daimon still is learning how to handle them.  The notion that soulfire can be used to travel thru time, though, seems like a desperate grasp by Steve, despite Daimon’s declaration that his power has “limitations – but time is not one of them.”  (“Well – I’ll allow it,” the bench sighs, glancing toward the clock.)

The art is missing something this time, despite Trapani’s return; amazingly, Mooney’s self-inked art in MS #15 was much better.  The full-page illustrations of Daimon’s face, and of the coiled flame-dragon, are meant to be impressive, but both come off as matter-of-fact.

Matthew: One reason I was so blasé about the “Tales of Atlantis” feature on which Steve and Jim collaborated in Sub-Mariner was that I thought it had no bearing on the modern Marvel Universe. Yet here—in an issue I am reading for the first time, courtesy of our august Dean Enfantino—they and Sal begin a two-parter that dredges up Kamuu & Co. in the seemingly unlikeliest of places, along with further refinements to the character and some nifty layouts by the Madman. Add a Beatles allusion in the title, plus the irony of Katherine describing Daimon as one of “the only normal people” in Forest Park, and I’m glad this is among the short-lived horrific strips I’d belatedly decided to acquire in full (as well as Man-Wolf, Morbius, and Tigra).

Marvel Team-Up 23
The Human Torch and The Iceman in
"The Night of the Frozen Inferno"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Gil Kane, Mike Esposito, and Dave Hunt
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Charlotte Jetter and Gaspar Saladino
Cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

After lending Spidey the sky-flyer, a restless Torch decides to check out his report of action at Faversham’s jeweler’s, where he is hit with an ice-bolt, and attacks Iceman in retaliation, despite his denials. The X-Men arrive, explaining that he was with them at the time of the robbery, so Bobby insists on solving the mystery with Johnny’s help before he joins his fellow mutants on a secret mission. The criminal has returned to Faversham’s, and when his protective shielding is torn, he reveals himself as Equinox, the Thermodynamic Man, who combines their powers; he seeks a cure for his condition, using the atomic clock he stole, but is apparently killed when his energies build to critical mass and he explodes, plunging into a sewer. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: It’s neat how this ties in with new big brother Giant-Size Spider-Man, giving us that misleading splash-page shot of Spidey, but unfortunately the inevitable fire-and-ice pairing can’t live up to its excellent title, “The Night of the Frozen Inferno.” Keeping the orphaned X-Men in play—as they prep for a mission that may or may not be the one depicted in the legendary GS X-Men #1—is a laudable goal, yet between that and the unconscionable amount of time devoted to the MARMIS, there’s precious little room for the villain, who will be better served in this same book exactly three years later under the Claremont/Byrne administration. Kane notches his final issue, again inked by Esposito (with longer stints by Mooney and the returning Sal Buscema to follow).

Joe: Possibly the only non-Spidey MTU I owned, I actually enjoyed this yarn re-reading it also. Seems natural Equinox would battle the pair of Torch and Iceman, even though the powers are a bit too similar, but there's the right amount of suspense, action and camaraderie to make this a good comic book. With of course an open ending for the sequel!

Scott: It’s interesting how closely tied Spider-Man is to this title that they have to actually explain why he's not going to be part of the story. It doesn't say "Spider-Man's Team-Up." The title alone could mean anything. But like "The Brave and the Bold" at DC, a flagship character draws in the readers to see stories of lesser lights. This time, it's Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake. Fire and Ice. A natural teaming, if not a gripping one. Neither character is very interesting; Johnny was always a bit of a douche (a"bit"?) and Drake a non-entity. Of course we have the standard MARMIS and a cheesy villain. Really, if you're having a problem like this guy does, would you create a costume and give yourself a name like "Equinox: The Thermodynamic Man?" Or would you go to the doctor? And again, here's Gil Kane making everything not-quite-enjoyable. Apparently, I only like his art when a really strong inker helps out. Like John Romita.

Marvel Two-In-One 4
The Thing and Captain America in
"Doomsday 3014!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Sal Buscema and Frank Giacoia
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott

In the Central Park Zoo, Wundarr starts a panic by innocently releasing the animals, yet after Captain America subdues some hoods looting the concession stands, the newly matriculated Nita arrives with her roommate, Annie, and offers to take him off Ben’s hands. Ben invites Cap and Sharon for coffee at the Baxter Building, where Reed is working on Dr. Doom’s time machine; Ben inadvertently switches it on, summoning Tarin, who reveals that in her time, 3014, humans have been enslaved by the Badoon since 3007. Ben, Cap, and Sharon return with her to help the leaders of the underground, the Guardians of the Galaxy (whose ship is named after Cap), but the trio is captured by brainwashed “Zoms” and the Monster of Badoon. -Matthew Bradley

Scott: The only interesting part of this saga for me is the Guardians of the Galaxy, name dropped here and promised next issue. I looked ahead. Not the same guys in the movie. Damn it, I wanted to meet Groot. Otherwise. Sal Buscema is off his game. He also has a funny way with women. They look gorgeous, but they're always horribly bow-legged. Every guy has his type, I suppose. Having Cap in this, considering his current crisis in his own book, feels weird. This is a throwaway.

Matthew: I regard the rescue of the Guardians from obscurity as Gerber’s greatest contribution to this run (he credits Tony Isabella with the idea of putting said revival in MTIO), and since he would be reunited with Buscema by the time he continued their adventures in Defenders, I consider Sal, well inked here by Giacoia, their definitive artist. Obviously, this is just the setup for their return—complete with a Monster of Badoon, reputedly not the one from Silver Surfer #2, if no Badoon per se—hence my slight impatience with the otherwise Wundarr-ful character stuff. Some hilarity in the lettercol as Brooklyn’s (J.) Marc DeMatteis refers to himself as “NOT being a big fan (not even a little one) of your Team-Up book”…which he would begin writing in 1981!

Chris: Well, so much for Cap’s idea of a reconnaissance trip to the 31st century. Hey Tarin – maybe you coulda clued our heroes in about the tireless, seemingly unstoppable zoms, and the Badoons’ giant robot monster. At least she had the presence of mind to stay out of the way, and avoid capture, so that she could get word to the Guardians of the Galaxy. “Hey wait,” say the Guardians, “I thought they were coming to help us!” Either way, ten bonus points to Tony Isabella (credited with the idea of featuring the GotG in MTIO) for helping Steve find a way to bring the Guardians back into circulation. Extra credit also to Roy for agreeing to feature an obscure group like the GotG so early in this title’s run. I’m glad Wundarr finally has a home – but probably only half as glad as Ben Grimm himself. Sal’s art is pretty good, but I’m not crazy about Giacoia’s inks here, especially when it comes to applying finishes to Ben’s head. I guess I’m too accustomed to expecting Sinnott’s touch on this character.

Giant-Size Spider-Man 1
"Ship of Fiends!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Ross Andru and Don Heck
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by John Romita

Spider-Man swings into Faversham Jewelers to thwart a robbery, but slips on a patch of ice and decides to get back to his mission at hand—visiting a sickly Aunt May. Turns out she has a new strain of flu that only a vaccine discovered by A.J. Maxfield can cure, which is being brought over to America slowly, by boat. Stopping by the Baxter Building for some help, Spidey gets Johnny Storm to lend him a stealthy new flier that gets him to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in 15 minutes, arriving to the cruise ship the same time as Count Dracula, who has come to kill Maxfield and his serum before it ruins the vamp’s plans! Meanwhile, raspy-voiced ex-Maggia hood Anthony Cavelli and his goons, led by Simian Simms, are also after the vaccine, which the gangster hopes to trade for a passport and a pardon. Drac goes to feed on a Valkyrie-clad redhead, but is foiled by a guy in a minstrel costume (big costume party on board), then the Vampire Lord hypnotizes a pair of thugs to get them to jump overboard to their deaths! Drac feeds on a different unsuspecting woman, who Peter gets to the ship’s doctor—who is Maxfield, the same guy in the minstrel costume! But Simian and the goons burst in, nabbing Maxfield and allowing Peter to slip away.

Part 2, “The Masque of the Black Death” starts with Spidey webbing the corridors until the goons are forced to go out to the open deck, where they confront the wall-crawler…who’s a guy there for the costume ball! The real Spidey swings in and takes care of most of the bad guys, but is forced to hightail it down an air-funnel. From there, he sneakily beats the goons and goes looking for Maxfield. Dracula is mingling in his own way at the costume party when the doc bursts in, and is asked for help by Cavelli. Drac follows, but first has to hypnotize the brutish Simian. Cavelli tries to stab Drac, but only ends up getting bitten and killed, leaving a peeved Drac to throw Maxfield over the side and fly off, proud of himself—but the doc is unwittingly saved by Spidey! Our hero slugs a hallucinating Simian, then is told Maxfield is really the woman in the Valkyrie costume! She changes into traveling clothes and takes off with Spidey back towards Manhattan with the vaccine, as Dracula goes to rest back in Europe. --Joe Tura

She looks just fine to us
Joe: I liked the tie-in to MTU #23, showing some continuity once in a while can’t hurt in the Marvel Universe. The Spidey-Drac pairing is an odd one, but it works thanks to a decent script. The Maxfield gender switch was cleverly done, if not a tad obvious, but since she’s drawn so well by Andru (we won’t mention the inks), we don’t care—she’s hot! And it’s always good to see Maggia hoods get what’s coming to them, so bravo to Drac! Although we never really get why Drac wanted to kill Maxfield, do we? What are his evil plans, just to rule the world? Seems a bit random he’d go after a doctor with a flu serum. And if he knew Maxfield was on a cruise ship, wouldn’t he do his homework and know she’s a female? Oh, well. P.S. I’m putting Reed Richards' new ship on my Christmas list!

For filler, we get a reprint of the Lee-Kirby classic “On the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man” from Strange Tales Annual #2, October 1963. This was probably the start of the two heroes’ long friendship and it’s great old school fun. They don’t make ‘em like that any more!

Favorite sound effect: I like “BWUMP!” which actually sounds like a muffled gun being blowed up good by some webbing. Which is what it is!

Matthew: Okay, the dust has settled at last: Marvel has found a happy medium between the inaugural quartet of 52-page, 35¢ giant-size books and the abortive 100-page, 60¢ format; dispensed with those unwieldy “showcase” titles; and finally gotten down to the business of cranking out some serious GS comics. This is the first with an all-new 30-page lead story, and although it is penciled by Andru, Spidey’s regular artist in Amazing—inked by Heck—the mag’s true nature as the GS counterpart to Marvel Team-Up is displayed as Wein’s script crosses over with his current issue, which somewhat paradoxically does not feature Spidey.

Scott: You'd think, with his aunt so sick and the fact that he's teary-eyed over it, Peter would visit for longer than two minutes. Why not take an hour, talk about what's going on, work, school, friends, maybe read her the newspaper or just make her feel better by showing you love her? Nah, just spend 30 seconds and then go swinging off. As for the art: while we get the usual ape-like criminals from Ross Andru, he does right by Dracula for the most part. At least it's not a glorified reprint issue.

Viking cheesecake!
Matthew: Roy’s introduction explains that its 60¢ version “was ready to go….Then, suddenly, Somebody Somewhere did some adding up of The Numbers…and had figured out that, much as we wanted to, it just didn’t make no sense nohow for us to be publishing color comic-books at no less than three sizes and prices—25¢, 35¢, and 60¢. There would be confusion on every level, wholesaler, retailer, reader—even in the Bullpen itself, where nobody from Smilin’ Stan Lee down to the lowliest messenger boy could ever keep all those long titles straight…In short, we’ve decided to combine our 35¢ and 60¢ titles into one size (nine quarterly titles in all [a target they will in fact achieve in October]), splitting the difference and charging 50¢ for 68 big pages,” cover to cover.
Super-Giant Spider-Man “was to have been a mammoth edition [of MTU], with Spidey vacating the latter every third month to co-star instead in the larger-size mag…” Roy had regarded this particular “non-meeting [as] an inevitability….Such a story might answer, for once and for all, the question which your letters have asked…over and over again: ‘Where does Dracula fit in the Marvel Universe? Is he in the same space/time continum [sic] as Spider-Man…Morbius…the Hulk…Conan, for that matter?’…If there is to be a Marvel Universe, the answer has to be yes…or else Marvel stumbles into the same kind of pitfalls and pratfalls as our Discombobulated Competition, with ten different kinds of Martians and an equal number of Universes.” A credo!

Chris: It’s always a strange “team-up,” when the two featured characters barely exchange words. On the editorial page, Roy admits that the plan was for Spidey and Drac to be connected somehow, but not necessarily to meet. Roy feels the need to maintain “the vague, uneasy relationship between our straight ‘superhero’ mags and our straight ‘mystery’ mags.” Both of these stories exist in the Marvel Universe, but side-by-side, not necessarily intertwined. As the old horror-based titles fade out, further into the Bronze Age, this distinction will become less of an issue.

Does Doc Savage know that Monk
turned to a life of crime?
Dracula is there on the very thinnest of premises, and possibilities. Add to that the fact that, if he’s bound back to Europe before daybreak, he’ll be flying toward the dawn, and thus would have little time to work with. Recall that Drac recently took a train across Europe, rather than fly in his bat-form. Len really should have stated outright that the ocean liner had left from port only an hour or two earlier, but that’s not established. All we really get from Drac in the story is some interference with Cavelli’s goons – and, ultimately, with Cavelli himself. There’s so much running around with so many characters, and mistaken identities and such, that really all we’re missing are a few slamming doors, and maybe a wedding and a dance at the end of Act V.

Andru’s art is up to his usual standard. Drac looks good enough often enough, especially when he’s surprised by the ship’s MD (p 15, panel 2), and lurking at the masquerade (p 31, first panel). I realize that Heck is credited as inker, and his thumbprint is apparent on a few pages. Still, I would put even money on an inks assist, most notably for p 1-3 and 6, which look to me more like Mike Esposito’s work. Maybe that‘s how Heck’s work looked after his first cup of coffee – I don’t know.

The Savage Sub-Mariner 71
"Comes the Pirahna" (sic)
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

The Sub-Mariner attempts to recover a vial containing ingredients that might help his race of people recover from a comatose slumber. Searching for the vial inside of a sunken warship, Namor is confronted by the Piranha, a hideously mutated creature. They fight it out but Subby is the more desperate so, while Piranha is in full attack mode, Namor bobs and weaves around him in search of the prize. Eventually, Subby finds the vial. The Piranha man proves himself to be a very dangerous enemy as he uses his sharp claws to break our hero's skin. Piranha takes the time to explain to Namor that he is a mutated side effect from the time Namor destroyed Dr. Dorcas's underwater ship. The same chemicals that were used to make Tiger Shark poured on to Piranha's back when he was a normal version of the fighting sea fish. The chemicals caused him to grow into a humanoid and he has hated Subby ever since. Namor is finally able to escape when Pirahna gets himself entangled in the warship wreckage. The story ends with Namor swimming off to bring his people the antidote, while the trapped Piranha is about to be devoured by a school of his former swim-mates. -Tom McMillion

Namor Battles The Purrana!

Matthew: Marvel wouldn’t waste anybody better than the Tuskolletta Twins—on an off day, yet—to illustrate the sorry spectacle of this once-proud mag’s penultimate issue before being put out of its/our misery, and when I say the villain is cartoony, I mean that literally: he looks like something out of an old DePatie-Freleng short. “Marvelous Marv” may be knockin’ ’em (un)dead over in Tomb of Dracula, but here he hammers the same points over and over relentlessly in a script soggy with malapropisms, a ludicrously contrived backstory, and an illogical ending. In an eleventh-hour orgy of self-flagellation, the lettercol enumerates the shortcomings of Gerber’s stint and offers a detailed explanation for the misleading cover of #69.

Tuskan Teeth of The Piurannia

Scott: I love when the primary villain of the story has his name misspelled on the splash. That just fills me with great optimism. So does George Tuska. It's also fun when Namor calls someone else "fish man." Two shouts of "Imperious Rex!" nine pages from each other and a "most ironical fate" for the Piranha (however it's spelled). How many more issues of this are left?

Death of The Pyrennia

The Mighty Thor 225
"The Coming of Firelord!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by John Buscema

Thirty seconds remain until Thor reverts to the form of Dr. Don Blake and the Destroyer will finish him in an instant. As the mighty shell prepares to deliver its opti-blast, it is distracted enough for the Thunder God to focus all his thought energy and summon Mjolnir back. Still fighting a losing battle, victory is achieved when Hercules brings the body of Clement Holmes in range, and the misguided scientist’s spirit returns to his body. Soon after, a flaming being who flies through the air with the aid of a staff akin to a match lit at both ends, lands on Earth. He is seeking Thor and Hercules, although he doesn’t recognize the latter, who tries to stop him from tossing aside an objecting human. The building happens to be where Dr. Blake’s office (and the sleeping, recovering goddess Krista) is. The fight takes them through a wall and down to the streets below where Thor joins his friend, and they realize something more is afoot. The being is known as Firelord, the herald of Galactus! He summons his master with a blast from his eyes, much to the horror of those watching. -Jim Barwise

Jim: The first thing I noticed is actually not that relevant to the story, and that is, why did Thor and Hercules just leave the Destroyer’s body on the wharf after his defeat? And I don’t quite get why Odin is ticked at Thor that Firelord sent his summons; the All-Father isn’t doing much to stop it himself. I guess he reasoned it’s time to give his son some grief again. These minor quibbles aside, this story holds some promise. Firelord is a striking and worthy character who will return over the coming years, and anything with Galactus can’t be bad. The hint is that there’s more than meets the eye going on here, confirmed next month.

Scott: In sort of a throwback to an earlier time, the Destroyer story ends partway through the issue, standing aside for the Firelord and the coming of Galactus. More than a few panels are given to the continuation of Don Blake's identity crisis and it's a most interesting thread to pursue. Odin, flighty as ever, is disgusted by his son's weakness, but wasn't he the guy who made the whole "Thor should live as a human to learn humility" thing happen to begin with? Still and all, a better than average issue. I'm of the mind that Galactus really belongs in the FF's comic, but if anyone else should battle the demi-god, it's Thor.

Matthew: Once again, we see an unusual two-page layout that has become increasingly common—especially in Thor—and was (as we now know from a helpful recent comment by “b.t.”) a cost-cutting measure. The left side is a not-quite-full-page shot, and the right side is a small number of relatively large panels; unfortunately, the size of the images deprives them of some detail, which would be less vexing if you didn’t have otherwise mouth-watering Buscinnott art like this. That said, the last page (above) is a stunner, even though we knew Galactus was on the way, while I note once again that Gerry has inherited Stan’s tendency, also particular to this title, of having storylines begin and end smack in the middle of the issue, rather than at the start or finish.

The Tomb of Dracula 22
"--In Death We Do Join!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Rich Buckler (?) and Tom Palmer

In a small town located in Russia, a rebellious vampire named Gorna has been stalking his human wife Petra. Gorna keeps visiting her in the middle of the night to dine on her neck. The psychological torture Gorna inflicts on his wife is just as bad as the abuse he would treat her to when he was alive.  Gorna runs into trouble when he encounters Count Dracula at the grave site he stays in. Somehow Gorna is able to resist Dracula's commands. When Gorna tells Dracula to go back to Transylvania, Drac summons his supernatural powers to strike the creature with thunder. Much to the Count's fury, Gorna simply dismisses him and flies away to go bother his wife some more. When Gorna goes in to Petra's room to drink her blood, Petra's father attacks him with a fiery stake. Dracula visits the home afterwards and uses his vampiric powers on Petra to learn about Gorna. Back at his cemetery home, Gorna is once again confronted by Dracula. Now hideously scarred from the night's earlier burning, Gorna fights back with his own power of summoning lighting from the skies. The electricity surge hurts Drac, but it doesn't kill him.  As the two vampires do battle, the townspeople have gathered in the cemetery to rid the world of Gorna. They arrive just in time to see Dracula vanquish his foe by throwing him into the fire.  -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: Sometimes it's nice to read a simpler tale from this series that doesn't have a bunch of subplots running through it. This issue was a decent monster mash-up that didn't drag on. Gorna looked pretty freaky when his skin got charred. I would have preferred if Marv had explained exactly how he was able to resist falling under Dracula's commands.

Chris: After the build-up to Drac’s confrontation with Dr Sun, we have a one-shot showdown with a renegade vampire.  I enjoy the moments when someone dares to defy our Drac – he’s gotten pretty accustomed to getting his own way over the past several hundred years, hasn’t he?  We don’t get an explanation for how Gorna is able to stand his ground – pure force of will on his part, or is there something more?  The fire-spouting cemetery standoff is foreshadowed on the cover, but Mean Gene masterfully employs a two-page spread to make the moment pop. What’s cooler, the sight of Drac recoiling in outraged surprise, or Gorna’s ghoul-face?  The townspeople, in their undead-burial masks, are suitably spooky, as well.

Mark: Rather than the expected round two of the duel with Dr. Sun, the Count is suddenly in the late U.S.S.R., for a one 'n' done fang-off with Gorna, a murderous, wife-beating misogynist in life, who has a strange immunity to the Lord of the Vampires' commands in his corpuscle-craving afterlife.

Beyond the lack of continuity, there are unanswered questions begging answers, like why does Gorna flee when Petra's parents arrive as our story begins, instead of simply tossing them aside so can he dine on his sleeping wife at leisure? He has the unexplained power to stand up to Drac, but flees at the sight of his in-laws?

Mark: No matter. Having killed a trysting couple early in the story, Drac later takes the fetching Petra's side in the dispute with her undead hubby. Her father's also handy with a flaming stake, burning away most of Gorna's face and allowing Dean Gene to conjure up one of his most ghoulish creations to date (and a great, ghastly two page spread of the Count battling the Russkie upstart).

"...In Death Do We Join!" is uneven, but still effective, borne aloft on bat wings by the Count's commanding presence and fang-sharp Colan/Palmer art.

Scott: "Lord of the Living Lightning!" Wasn't he a Hulk villain back in the later issues of Tales to Astonish? And wasn't he pretty boring? Luckily, this ain't that guy. Another sickly grim issue, with lots of death and screaming, brains "compacting like oatmeal." I wonder what my mom would have thought if she found this book among my collection and paged through it, expecting Spider-Man style adventuring?

Werewolf by Night 19
"Vampires on the Moon!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Don Perlin and Vince Colletta
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Gil Kane, John Romita, and Tom Palmer

Third Night, and Werewolf battles a pair of vampires—on the moon! Flashback to right after Second Night, where Jack is offered a spot on the couch by Clary while Sandy has his damaged apartment repaired, then lupine neighbor Raymond Coker accosts Jack but doesn’t want his help to work together to figure out their curses. Heading to the studio after a frantic call from Clary, with Coker following, Jack is led to a strange old trunk of Joshua Kane’s, just as he turns into the Werewolf! He’s attacked by a pair of bats, actually a pair of vampires who once worked at the studio, but were turned by Dracula himself! They battle on a lunar set—which confuses Werewolf, who seeks his beloved forest—then beasted-out Coker rushes in to help! The bats attack Coker but Werewolf saves him, until they turn back into vampires and get the upper hand. But quickly, Coker stakes the female vamp and Werewolf tosses the Drac wanna-be into the fake moon, impaling him on broken wood. The next morning, Jack and Coker awake, and Jack shows him the trunk, which contains the lost book Libro del Malditos, which changes from Spanish to English before their eyes to divulge the one cure for their curse—the cursed one must “find another werewolf and kill him under the full moon”! –Joe Tura

Warning: Prof. Joe Tura recommends that you do
not attempt art like this at home

Joe: This is some sad-looking art. Just check out page 3, which is drawn slightly better than my daughter could do. And Coker looks ten years younger than he has in past issues. And the vampires just look like they’re laughing all the time. Well, until the werewolf pair dispatches them. Then they ain’t exactly feeling jolly! We do get some story movement, and Clary flirting, and small back story for Coker, and a nice set up for future “wolf pack” appearances with the curse solve, which actually sounds promising if you can believe it. An OK ish, just leaves me longing for Mike Ploog, that’s for sure.

Also This Month

Chamber of Chills #11
Crazy #5
Crypt of Shadows #11
Kid Colt Outlaw #184
Marvel's Greatest Comics #50
Marvel Spectacular #8
Marvel Super-Heroes #44
Marvel Triple Action #19
My Love #29
Rawhide Kid #121
Sgt. Fury #120
<-Tomb of Darkness #9
Where Monsters Dwell #29

Happily, Beware! makes a smooth transition (after eight issues) to its new title, Tomb of Darkness. Don't ask me why Marvel thought a horror reprint would sell more titles with a Tomb in the title but Darkness will last a further fourteen issues, giving up the ghost with #23 in November 1976.


The Haunt of Horror 2
Cover by Earl Norem

"Gabriel: Devil-Hunter"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Billy Graham

"Something Wicked"
Text by Chris Claremont
Art by Marie Severin

"The Exorcist Tapes"
Discussion on The Exorcist
Transcribed by Chris Claremont

"Gran'ma Died Last Year"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Gene Colan and Frank Chiaramonte

"A Fire in Hell"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Pablo Marcos

"Bloody is the Path to Hell"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Enrique Romero

St. Benedict's Cathedral has been desecrated and a priest seems to be possessed. The only man Father Lazar can turn to is Gabriel, a defrocked priest who's had quite a bit of experience when it comes to run-ins with the devil. Lazar journeys to Gabriel's office, on the 13th floor of the Empire State Building, and explains to the man what has happened. While Gabriel's back is turned, the father grabs a dagger and tries to murder him. The Devil-Hunter quickly drives the demon from Lazar's body and tells the father he'll take the case. As the exorcism begins, Gabriel discovers that the demon who has taken over the body of Father Artemis is Catherine, the same evil spirit that possessed Gabriel years before. Through trickery, Gabriel lures the demon out of Artemis and destroys it. I might enjoy this strip a bit more if wasn't so damned derivative. We get spitting on the cross, victims talking in different voices, and desecrated churches. All we're missing is Linda Blair's abdomen and pea soup. Even as a kid, I always thought it was funky when these comic writers would latch onto the latest thing and run it into the ground. I've not checked yet, but chances are Doug Moench was writing shark comics the following year and space opera a couple years after that.


Little Jimmy has never really gotten along with his parents, they're too strict and not very much fun, but his Gran'ma makes up for the pair in spades. She buys him comic books, reads to him, and lets him off detention. Only problem is, Gran'ma falls down the stairs and dies. No more fun. Dad turns to the bottle and begins beating on mom and, before too long, on his boy as well. To Jimmy, there's only one solution: bring Gran'ma back home. So, one night, he goes to her grave, digs her up, and brings her back to the house in his Radio Flyer. Propped up in Jimmy's room, she almost looks presentable for a decaying skeleton. When dad comes home that night, drunk and enraged, he beats mom to death and then goes after Jimmy but the precocious tyke is ready for him. When the police show up a few days later, Jimmy knows they'll take him away from Gran'ma so he locks himself in the bathroom and slits his wrists. "Gran'ma Died Last Year" is like a breath of fresh air amidst all the faux-superhero/exorcists and faux-superhero/vampires I've been slogging through in the first year of the Black & White Explosion. It's sick as f**k and depressing as all hell but, my God, what a lasting impression it's made on me. Just this week, that is. I never read this as a 12 year-old and I don't have a clue how it would have registered with me back then but this 52 year-old was impressed that editor Roy Thomas would have let something like this slither through all the spandex and crosses. Bravo, Doug!

Satana, the Devil's Daughter, is looking for a back door into hell and to do this she must enlist an old friend, the demon Zannarth. Together the two wander down a path of danger and hellfire a la Crosby and Hope. The Rascally One relates on the editorial page how Pablo Marcos pulled a disappearing act on him after committing to two Satana stories, leaving Roy and writer Gerry Conway in the lurch. Enter newbie Enrique Badia Romero, who fills Maroto's shoes quite well. In fact, if you didn't have the credits right there on the splash, you'd think it was Maroto (or Pablo Marcos maybe). Anyway, they got the pencils down, now how about a coherent script. Yeesh, "Bloody is the Path to Hell" reads like one of those really warped, foggy-in-the-brain Skywald series where you never really know what's going on but couldn't care less anyways. This issue also features a Gerry Conway-penned prose story starring La Hija del Diablo, based on the second story that Maroto flaked on.

Well, speaking of that very influential film, The Exorcist (we were, weren't we?), a good chunk of the magazine is given over to a discussion on the controversial blockbuster by ten recent viewers. So, did Marvel go all out and hire film critics? Nope. Religious historians? Nope. Well, then who? How about six Marvel comic book writers, three of their wives and the resident Variety subscriber, Carla Joseph. What's the general consensus? Meh! Yep, an acknowledged classic of horror meets with derision and general apathy. Gerry Conway declares it "pornographic," while his then-wife, the aforementioned Joseph, has lots of real deep things to say, among them: "My initial impression was that it was a very, very scary film. However, within a week I began to feel no impact from it; it wasn't a film that grew and seemed more horrible after..." Huh? There are lots more quirky sound bytes but I've neither the time nor the space to reproduce them here. The thing that amazes me the most is that when you get a bunch of comic book writers together in one room, they don't come off like intelligent craftsmen but rather like meandering and mumbly-mouthed fanboys. Glynis Wein has only four lines (one of which is to condemn The Legend of Hell House as "not that scary") and none of them has to do with the color of the film! If you want a good laugh, hunt this one down. Oh, and as if 13 pages weren't enough for these pros to get their opinions out into the world, the "discussion" is continued next issue. I need more beer. -Peter Enfantino

Not content with launching a werewolf strip this month, Moench teams with Luke Cage/Black Panther legend Graham to create a character whose eyepatch makes him look like Nick Fury, Exorcist of S.H.I.E.L.D. Don’t know if Daimon Hellstrom needed competition, but this issue’s “Bonus Feature on the Most Terrifying Film of All Time: The Exorcist Tapes” (not, alas, in my Marvel Firsts) indicates the tenor of the times, and despite the familiar elements, Billy’s B&W art is suitably atmospheric. After Gabriel toplined HoH’s last four issues, Moench brought him back in Monsters Unleashed #11 (April 1975), plus a 1980 Fantastic Four two-parter (#222-3); he resurged during the ’90s in Hellstorm. -Matthew Bradley

Dracula Lives 7
Cover by Luis Dominguez

"Here Comes the Death Man"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Vicente Alcazar

"Blood Moon"
Text by Thompson O'Rourke
Art by Ernie Chua

"Assault of the She-Pirate!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by George Evans

"Taste the Blood of Dracula"
Review by Tony Isabella

"Dracula Chapter III:
The Female of the Species"
Story Adaptation by Roy Thomas
Adapted from the Novel by Bram Stoker
Art by Dick Giordano

Someone is killing off all the investors in a multi-million dollar scheme known as "The Broadway Project," named after a jewel with uncommon properties. One of those corpses was a very trusted asset in Dracula's plan for world domination, Richard Grant, and that makes Dracula very angry. He puts on his Sherlock Holmes cap and tracks the trail of death to the door of the last surviving member, Mildred Williamson, the daughter of the man who discovered the jewel in the first place. Mildred has gone a bit nuts since the partners turned against her father and robbed him of his fortune. It's Mildred who has been responsible for the deaths. Enraged, Dracula drains the woman of blood and flies off into the night. The first three-quarters of "Here Comes the Death Man" are quite enjoyable, a change of pace from the usual "Dracula Fights Another Vampire" yarn, but then it goes off the rails in its climax. I'm not even certain what Gerry wanted us to think about his star murderess. Was she dressing up like the Death Man and murdering those she hated most (if so, why bother dressing as a man?) or did she hire a contract killer? The latter doesn't tread water (well, probably because we're never shown another murderer) but then neither does the former. Nice art by Alcazar.

Actually, that's "bizarrely"

The best of the three Dracula stories this issue is Mike Friedrich's "Assault of the She-Pirate!" A fine young seafarin' wench known as Hellyn deVill has her crusty crew ransack Castle Dracula in search of the legendary necklace belonging to Dracula's dead wife. Once they find the jewelry, they head back out to sea but Drac is hot on their tail and when he catches up to them, he's none too happy. I found this one to be a fun romp, with Hellyn a good match for the Count. It all works up to a good twist ending (SPOILERS AHEAD!) when it's revealed that Hellyn isn't a busty babe but an old haggard witch who's cast a spell over her crew to keep them in line. I'd have liked to have seen a little bit more background on Hellyn but then, of course, I'd probably have complained about that too. I have very vivid memories of being totally grossed-out (I'm sure there was a different term for it in 1974), at the age of 12, seeing a really old woman's shriveled up breasts in this strip. Yeah, they're covered by a flimsy bra but they're still there.

"Assault of the She-Pirates!"

The grand adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula reaches its third chapter, the best installment so far. Roy and Dick are finally given something interesting to work with: the classic meeting between Jonathan Harker and "The Female of the Species" in Castle Dracula. The pacing is still a bit slow (I think Roy was extremely optimistic that he'd get this thing done -- at the pace they'd set, it would have taken until Dracula Lives #100 to complete) but it bodes well for future installments that I only fell asleep once while reading.

Continuing the overview/filmbooks of the Hammer/Christopher Lee/Dracula films, Tony Isabella lends his tremendous comedic talent to a review of Taste the Blood of Dracula. Isabella ramps up the larf-ometer by finding different monikers for the three henchmen in the film (the Three Musketeers, the Junior Woodchucks, the Ghostly Trio -- stop, stop, yer killin' me!) and injecting topical humor (a joke about Rosemary Woods had me ROTFLMAO). I'm assuming Isabella was doing a twice nightly in the Marvel Bullpen at the time so couldn't write any fresh jokes for an article some people may have been reading for information and criticism. If I had a time machine, I'd do the only sensible thing that could be done: I'd go back to 1974 and write several hundred letters requesting that Gerry Boudreau be put back on this series of articles. His thesis on Horror of Dracula, though flawed, remains the most readable and least cornball of all the entries. -Peter Enfantino

Savage Tales 5
May 1974

“The Secret of Skull River”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Jim Starlin & Al Milgrom

Savage Tales is Dead! Long Live Savage Tales!”
Text by Roy Thomas

“The Legacy of Greenberg”
Text by Roy Thomas

“Spell of the Dragon”
Story by John Jakes
Art by Val Mayerik & Joe Sinnott
(reprinted from Chamber of Chills #2, January 1973)

“The Legend of the Lizard Men”
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema
(reprinted from Astonishing Tales #9, December 1971)

The ever-changing cast of premiere artists working on the Conan stories in Savage Tales continues, as Jim “Judo” Starlin steps up to the plate for “The Secret of Skull River.” Conan slays a huge mountain giant named Hanuman but the Cimmerian’s horse is killed in the process. Washing his wounds in a murky stream, Conan is suddenly overcome and falls unconscious. When he wakes a week later, the barbarian is being tended to by the beauteous Naia. Her father, the village’s mayor, offers Conan anything he wants if he travels to a nearby castle and slays Lord Sophos and his wizard, Anaximander, the men poisoning the water supply. Conan agrees. When he arrives at the castle, the mercenary learns that Sophos and Anaximander have been experimenting with deadly chemicals that when added to water transform people into gold. With the help of another giant named Grandall, Conan kills everyone in the castle. Returning to the village to claim his prize, the Cimmerian turns down the offer of Naia and rides off with a new horse. In all, a decent story with a rather grisly plot. Now Starlin was easily one of the most talented illustrators working at the time, but he’s ill-suited for the Hyborian Age. Perhaps it’s because so much of his work has a cosmic theme: I kept waiting for Conan to the climb on board a spaceship and blast off to the stars in search of Thanos. It looks like Sophos borrowed Drax the Destroyer’s outfit, complete with high collar, cape, and skull cap. It doesn’t really work in the context. It’s wonderful art though and interesting to see Starlin’s take on the barbarian.

“Spell of the Dragon” is an 8-page Brak the Barbarian tale by the character’s creator, John Jakes. Brak is hired to slay a marauding dragon. An evil witch agrees to help Brax with his task, promising to weave a spell that will weaken the creature. However, when the deed is done, the mercenary cannot look upon another person for an hour or he must kill them. After dispatching the dragon, Brak returns to the witches’ castle and removes the blindfold he has been wearing. Brak is not as impressive as Conan and comes across as a watered-down ripoff. Thankfully, Professor Joe already wrote about the Ka-Zar story also included, “The Legend of the Lizard Men,” in his write up for Astonishing Tales #9. Click here to read all about it if you have nothing better to do, like, say, lancing a boil.

Roy’s editorial, “Savage Tales is Dead! Long Live Savage Tales!” announces major changes to Marvel’s black-and-white magazine line. Savage Tales will continue, but without Conan, who will be spun off into the new title Savage Sword of Conan. Ka-Zar will now be the cornerstone character of Savage Tales, with more Brax stories promised. Oh happy day. “The Legacy of Greenberg” continues the history of The Gnome Press from last issue. After running out of Weird Tales stories to repackage into book form, publisher Martin Greenberg turned to author L. Sprague deCamp to take some of Howard’s unpublished works and turn them into Conan adventures. Plus, a letters page, “Savage Mails,” makes its debut, featuring glowing praise for the “Red Nails” two-parter by author Fritz Leiber and news of how Harlan Ellison called the Marvel offices to do the same. -Thomas Flynn

On "The Legacy of Greenberg":

While Roy Thomas’ “Hour of the Gnome” (parts I and II) is overall a good and informative article, it was not overtly stated that at least some of the Gnome Press editions, unlike the previous Arkham House editions from August Derleth, contain Conan texts heavily rewritten from the originals by L. Sprague de Camp. (De Camp continued to rewrite Howard’s original texts in the Lancer/ACE editions that followed Gnome Press’.) Otherwise, it was a treat not only to read a whirlwind history of Conan reprints, pulp publishing, and lost REH manuscripts unearthed, but also to learn that Empire Strikes Back co-writer Leigh Brackett had “a hero called Conan in ‘Lorelei of the Red Mist,’ a tale she co-authored with a fledgling s-f scribe named Ray Bradbury” and almost became a “continuer of the Conan saga”! Only in an alternate universe will we ever know what a Brackett Conan tale would have read like instead of the controversial de Camp continuations that followed. -Gilbert Colon

Tales of the Zombie 6
July 1974

“Child of Darkness”
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Pablo Marcos

“Mails to the Zombie”

“Plague of the Zombies”
Text by Gerry Boudreau

“Sugar Hill”
Text by Jim Harmon

“The Compleat Voodoo Man”
Fiction by Chris Claremont

“End of a Legend”
Script by Doug Moench
Plot by Len Wein
Art by Gene Colan and Frank Chiaramonte

“The Voodoo Beat”
Text by Carla Joseph

"Child of Darkness"
In the lead Zombie story, “Child of Darkness,” our undead hero is trudging through the swamplands outside New Orleans when he comes across Priestess Layla and her voodoo followers, the very people who presided over Simon Garth’s terrible transformation. Enraged, the Zombie attacks, only slowed when he is engulfed by a campfire. However, Layla, who secretly loved Garth, takes pity on the monster and helps him douse the flames in a murky stream. The woman guides the smoldering Zombie deeper into the swamp, searching for his original grave and an ultimate resting place — but the beauty and the beast soon become helplessly lost. Ultimately they find a rundown house. Telling the Zombie to stay hidden in the tree line, Layla knocks on the door. A nervous woman named Joan Masterson welcomes her inside but Joan’s husband Eric is furious over the intrusion. The man knocks the voodoo queen unconscious and locks her in an adjacent stone cabin that holds his son Teddy, laughing that the teenager will either kill or rape her. When the Mastersons notice the Zombie, Eric frees Teddy, a crazed were-creature, and cowardly locks himself in the cabin. The wretched teen leaps on the Zombie but its razor-sharp claws and teeth have no effect on the already dead skin. Suddenly a scream sounds from inside the cabin and Layla emerges: she has accidentally killed Eric Masterson with his own axe. Teddy lovingly clutches Layla who says that her voodoo powers hold sway over all of nature’s creations and that she befriended Teddy while locked in his prison. Layla leads the Zombie away, telling Joan that all her accursed son needs is motherly love.

"Child of Darkness"
Hmmm. Not sure about this one. It could be my favorite Zombie story so far but it’s still a lightweight entry. Sure, there’s plenty of mayhem with both the brutal attack on the voodoo cult and the tangle with Teddy, but it all seems little more than a speed bump in the continuing tale of our undead protagonist. There’s no character development and nothing really interesting happens. And Gerber offers no explanation for why the Mastersons had a hairy devil baby, even in the text heavy prologue. I guess monsters, blood and guts, and the curvy Layla is what Marvel thought was enough for our 75¢.

The final chapter of a three-part story started in Strange Tales 172 and 173, “End of a Legend” finds Brother Voodoo tied to a wooden cross above Loralee Tate, a woman soon to be sacrificed by the Black Talon to resurrect the Dark Lord. Using the spirit of his dead twin Daniel, Jericho Drumm possesses one of the Talon’s minions and commands him to cut his bonds. The voodoo hero and the Black Talon do battle, but just before good is about to triumph over evil, Brother Voodoo is knocked unconscious from behind by Mama Lingo, the very woman who guided him to the Talon’s lair. When he awakes, Brother Voodoo is now chained to the crucifix and Loralee’s sacrifice begins anew. This time, Drumm uses his immense strength to free himself, shattering the cross, leaving him chained to two blocks of heavy wood. Using the wood pieces like a pair of ball-and-chains, Brother Voodoo swings into Talon and his men. However, Mama Lingo weaves a spell that paralyzes the combatants. Raising her blade above Loralee, the decrepit Mama boasts that the Dark Lord doesn’t even exist and that the sacrifice is only a ritual to regain her youth: but the center shaft of the cross suddenly topples, crushing her to death. Overcome by grief, the Black Talon removes his mask, revealing that he is Mama Lingo’s son, Desmond Drew. Enraged by the ruse, Drew’s cultists turn on their leader, ripping him to shreds. Brother Voodoo and Loralee make their exit and await the arrival of the police.
Doing my homework, I actually read the Strange Tales that led to this one, but it wasn’t really necessary: the first three pages of this 17-page story recapped all I needed to know. Which wasn’t much. The Black Talon is dressed in an evil chicken outfit, which does fit with the voodoo milieu but it doesn’t make him look any less ridiculous. Like the Zombie story, this one is full of sturm und drang but left me mostly empty. The Gene Colan and Frank Chiaramonte art is top notch and perfectly matched to the supernatural proceedings. So that helped a bit. Perhaps it’s because I was never a fan of Brother Voodoo: I found it hard to pull for heroes that basically walked around barefoot and half-naked. Just seemed goofy. Sorry Namor. The Brother will be back in Tales of the Zombie #10, the final issue.

Two of the text articles focus on movies: Hammer’s Plague of the Zombies (1966) and the American-International release Sugar Hill (1974). The Sugar Hill piece is basically a three-page photo essay offering promotional images with brief captions. Gerry Boudreau’s six-pager on Plague is much more in-depth and gives a good representation of this average but undeniably atmospheric film.

The remaining two text pieces left me scratching my head. In Claremont’s “The Compleat Voodoo Man,” an unnamed writer interviews a voodoo expert called Seymour about the best books available on the topic. What follows is basically a succession of brief reviews of real-life voodoo texts, from Alfred Métraux’s “Voodoo in Haiti” to “Secrets of Voodoo” by Milo Rigaud. Not sure why there’s any subterfuge with the fictional setting. Maybe it’s because Carla Joseph’s “The Voodoo Beat” is an actual nonfiction article about not only voodoo movies, but voodoo books as well. If you are interested, the movies Joseph checks off are Tales that Witness Madness (1973), The House of Seven Corpses (1974), Madhouse (1974), Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1972), Sisters (1973), and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1972). Are any of these even voodoo related? Or is supernatural close enough?

“Mails to the Zombie” doesn’t offer much, mainly a plea for more letters since “TOTZ is selling like CRAZY.” Um, OK. There’s a gorgeously gruesome cover painting by Earl Norem but it reflects nothing on the inside pages. -Thomas Flynn

"End of a Legend"

Mama Limbo is killed by a falling fragment of the inverted cross – waitaminnit, didn’t we have the same outcome in Strange Tales #171, when the A.I.M. gizmo fell from the ceiling and crushed Baron Samedi, and the hypnotized minions were then instantaneously released from the spell? The fight with Black Talon is fairly straightforward – we don’t learn much about him, except that he does, in fact, have talons. I don’t see how this last chapter of the Brother Voodoo Saves Loralee storyline was so special that it was worth moving to a b&w magazine. A tiny bit of breast-exposure (pg 48, panel 3) is the only bit of “adult” content – otherwise, nothing else distinguishes this from the previous chapters in the conventional-comic pages of Strange Tales.

Jericho is about to disappear (as the smoke rises and the drums pound) from the Marvel ranks for the better part of the next eight years (with MTU #24 as one of his only appearances). Too bad – he’s an unusual character, and we’ve only begun to find out who he is, and what his powers allow him to do.

-Chris Blake


  1. The text pieces in the b/w magazines are mostly unreadable. Did they had to do these for distribution reasons? What on earth have Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1972), Sisters (1973), and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1972) to do with voodoo? The first is a egyptian Mummy movie, the second a psycho movie, the third an truly over the top italian giallo with your typical Scooby Do ending. Not even a smell of voodoo.

    For a smooth machine like Marvel at the time the whole Satana story is weird. Missing art, misscommunication, awkward written prose-stories as fill-ins, unsuited artists and a character which never did work. As if they wanted to do Vampirella but couldn't get it right, regardless how much effort they spend on it.

    Gabriel Devil-Hunter is terrible, isn't it? But I have to confess I have a soft spot for the character and his stories.

  2. Boy do I have a different take on ToD #22.
    Some years back, I acquired a complete run of the series, and began reading my way through it, one ish per day. After a promising 3-4 issues, the title seemed to drag. The arrival of Wolfman picked things up a small notch, but only just. And then it pretty much started stinking, with dumb plots (Dr. Sun???) and ludicrous plot turns (flesh-eating mountain goats??), not to mention the tiresome confrontations between Drac and his pursuers that never went anywhere.
    This issue, however, knocked my socks off. Dark, scary stuff - one of the best horror tales Marvel ever produced. It kicked off a brief periods (roughly this through issue 36) where ToD actually lived up to it's rep.