Wednesday, October 8, 2014

November 1974 Part Two: The Incredible Hulk #181 Becomes an Instant Collector's Item!

The Incredible Hulk 181
"And Now... the Wolverine!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Herb Trimpe and John Romita

When The Incredible Hulk mistakes him for a friend, The Wolverine uses that to his advantage in his fight against Wendigo. A fierce tag-team battle threatens to shake the entire Canadian countryside but, eventually, Wendigo is toppled. Meanwhile, in the bushes, Wendigo's human sister, Marie, and best friend, Georges, plot a means to restore Wendigo to his human form (all it takes is to find another human to switch places with the big furry white guy). With the cannibal out for the count, Wolverine sneakily attacks The Hulk, who never saw it comin'. As powerful as this little yellow guy with claws is, he's no match for the green goliath and, in no time, the only one standing is The Hulk. While all the battling is going on, Georges sacrifices himself for Marie (love is a many-splendored thing, even to Canucks) and Paul is restored to human form. The guilt drives Marie insane. -Peter Enfantino

Joe Tura: I wish I had a lot to say about this way-too-important issue, especially as today's Marvel Comics sells the "Death of Wolverine", but I don't, really. I remember it pretty well, without the actual issue to re-read, but it's actually borderline insignificant if you think about it, because until Claremont gets his hands on everyone's favorite Canuck, Wolvie doesn't really sink his claws fully into Marvel-dom. Then things get really fun.

Scott McIntyre: Wolverine is given a generous page count, yet he shows little of the personality he would eventually be known for. In fact, he's quite talkative and hardly the berserker he would be when the All New, All Different X-Men make the scene in a few months. However, his Weapon X backstory is hinted at and the potential is there for him to become a great character. The story itself is fairly mediocre and hardly worth landmark status. It's an inauspicious debut for The Wolverine, but he's here now and the best is yet to come.

Mark Barsotti: I had all these Hulks back in the day, and while a good portion of my boyhood Marvel stash survives, where almost all of this era's Greenskins disappeared to is an unsolved mystery.

I do, however, know exactly what happened to my NM copy of Hulk #181. Needing plane-ticket-to-go-see-a-girl cash, I sold it in the mid-80's, for the princely sum of fifteen bucks. The 2014-2015 OVERSTEET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE at grade values the book at $2000.

Hulk ain't the only one who wants to smash.

Matthew Bradley:  This and Wein’s stories in the current Defenders and Marvel Team-Up have not only Greenskin in common but also a motif of friendship and love, with a rather somber outcome in two cases.  Of course, in retrospect, all of that is overshadowed by the first full appearance of Wolverine, whom Len will include six months hence in the “all-new, all-different X-Men,” and whose rise to superstardom was due in part to the ongoing mystery surrounding his past.  Here, we learn about his “almost feral fury”; adamantium claws (if not their true nature); diminutive stature (5' 5"); mutant “speed, strength and savagery”; long and costly development by the Canadian government; and “the few kinks still remaining in his psychological makeup…”

Peter Sanderson’s Incredible Hulk and Wolverine essay quotes Wein:  “Roy said, ‘Wolverine is a great name.  It’s a nasty little beast.  Give me a character who goes with the name.’…[T]hey’re short, nasty creatures who have no qualms about attacking beasts ten times their size to protect their young and to protect their territory,” befitting Canadian nationalism.  He was conceived as a 19-year-old with retractable claws in his gloves.  “They were telescoping, and they would fit back in the casing in the gloves. When they snick out, because it’s comic books, the sections for the claws cleanly fit together so you can’t see the little seams in the claws….What made him a mutant was that he was very ferocious, very strong for his size, and very fast,” as Len explained.

Mark: Wolfie is a mean little cuss, no doubt about it, but I'm sure even Len Wein never imagined that the unnamed Logan would one day supplant a certain wall-crawler as the most popular character in the Marvel U.

Herb's art works as well as I remember on his signature title, and while, then and now, I find "Wen-di-go" as interesting as his vocabulary is extensive, his sister's fate is moving (props to Len for making me care about characters I don't care about). This era's characterization of Hulkie as a sensitive if easily enraged seven year old remains my favorite.

Peter Enfantino: Even if you omitted all the hints at what's to come with this new character, I'd still have thought this was a great read. It's got everything: humor, excitement, intrigue, and pathos. In fact, the only thing missing is the element I can do without: the supporting cast. It's a relief to go at least one issue without the repetitious ThunderLips Ross, the whipped Major Talbot, and the shrill, whiny Betty Ross Banner Talbot. I missed out on reading the previous Hulk entry so I'm not sure how Marie found out where Valkyrie shops but she doesn't go in for dressing casually, does she? That climax is a whopper, a real heart-strings puller. I'm keen to move on to Wendigo's solo story in Monsters Unleashed #9 next month to see what kind of development Chris Claremont carries over from this story. Having never read The New X-Men as a kid, and only learning about Wolvie from his film appearances, I'm looking forward to discovering just what made this character and his comrades the most popular title in Marvel history.

Master of Kung Fu 22
"A Fortune of Death!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Gulacy and Dan Adkins
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Shang-Chi’s dinner is interrupted when he is attacked by a squad of Si-Fan assassins.  Too late, S-C realizes that the man who had recommended the restaurant must have been in the employ of his father, Fu Manchu.  S-C routs his attackers, and as he steps outside, he determines that it is time again for him to confront Fu.  Sir Denis and Black Jack arrive, and request Shang’s help against Fu’s latest plot.  S-C discourages the two men from trying to apprehend Fu at his headquarters, but they go ahead anyway.  S-C infiltrates the headquarters himself, and discovers Sir Denis and Black Jack already captured.  Fu has the two men dragged to a plane, which S-C boards via the landing gear.  Fu places SD and BJ in a cavern next to a pile of explosives, and lights the gunpowder fuse.  S-C leaps to the rescue, dispersing Fu’s warriors, snuffing the fuse, and flinging away a vial of unstable nitroglycerine.  SD steps to the cavern’s mouth, and gasps with the realization that Fu’s plan had been to blow up him and Jack, and to take down the presidential sculpture of Mount Rushmore in the process.  
-Chris Blake

Chris: Dramatic improvement from last issue.  The story is tight, as Gulacy again employs small panels to compress the action.  Page 2 was so cleverly done that I chuckled in appreciation; I also enjoyed S-C’s too-late realization that the spear mounted on the wall was “mere decoration,” ergo not suitable for self-defense, and his in-time observation that the chandelier would, in fact, prove strong enough to allow him to swing to – and bowl over – his opponent.  Nice touch, as Shang defenestrates his last assailant with sufficient force that the flung “waiter” breaks thru not only the plate glass, but also the window of the car parked curbside!  Sir Denis and Black Jack really should have more sense than to try to take-down Fu on his home turf, but either way, extra credit to Doug for skipping the scene when they are captured, so that we can keep the focus where it belongs, on Shang himself, and keep the action moving breathlessly forward.  
Mark: Energetic Johnny B cover, with Gulacy's pencils again waiting inside, so the battle's at least half-won because there's no other comic of this era that will be so intrinsically linked to a single artist. Jim Starlin may have birthed Shang-Chi, but then he promptly dumped him at the orphanage door, to be brought to artistic maturity by Paul Gulacy. There's still an occasional posed stiffness to his figures, and the forced perspectives seem slightly off (e.g., last panels P.'s 6 & 7) but those are minor flaws, pointed out so I don't over-enthusiastically cheerlead. Sympathetically inked by Dan Adkins, the art gets better as the story moves along; several of the close-ups of Shang look like cinematic screen-captures. Some fault Gulacy for aping Steranko, but - no mean feat- he actually has the talent to pull that off. And for my money, taking as your template one of the most revolutionary and dynamic artists to ever grace the funny books ain't a bad thing.

Chris: I’ve already said some positive things about Gulacy, but I should point out that this is the first pairing of Gulacy with Dan Adkins, which proves to be one of the definitive art teams for this title.  Milgrom’s inks on Gulacy’s early issues were solid, and provided some continuity as we transitioned from Starlin as penciller, but Adkins brings more fluidity and texture to the art.  There’s so much terrific hand-to-hand action, I could fill this entire page outlining that alone.  Instead, let’s consider a few single-panel highlights: S-C turns (reprinted above); S-C peers in (reprinted far above); Fu’s hateful determination, paired with SD’s and BJ’s apprehension (p 23, pnl 1); another panel of dire concern, this time in the midst of the battle (p 27, pnl 5), which keeps us connected to what’s at stake in the moment.  Outstanding.
Mark: "A Fortune of Death" finds scripter Moench still working variations on the book's not yet resolved weak spot: plot repetition. Shang is attacked yet again by father Fu's assassins, this time in a Chinese restaurant, completely with fortune cookie foreshadowing. Sir Denis and Black Jack return, only to make the bone-head move of attacking Fu in his headquarters with inadequate forces (i.e. just the two of them).

S-C follows, of course, stowing away in daddy's jet as Fu transports his prisoners to an explosives-laden cave. Kicks and karate chops ensue, followed by the penny dreadful convention of our hero putting out a burning fuse right before it reaches the barrel of TNT. One half-expects to see ACME EXPLOSIVES stenciled on the keg. If not original, all the last second heroics are effectively executed, and the last panel reveal that Fu had intended to destroy the presidential pantheon of Mt. Rushmore adds some welcome "Holy Sh*t!" gravitas to the pulpy proceedings.

And we return to the art, (almost) always the foremost component in a visual medium. Had last month's fill-in artist Ron Wilson or even dependable pitch hitcher Sal Buscema penciled the proceedings, the story's clich├ęs would have been amplified. With Gulacy, they are mitigated.      

The Man-Thing 11
"Dance to the Murder"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Chiaramonte
Colors by Linda Lessman
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Mike Ploog

Richard Rory sits alone in the swamp, coffee and campfire his only company, until Man-Thing comes along. They're old friends, of a sort, and Rory laments the loss of Ruth Hart, recently departed, with whom he had a brief but meaningful relationship. The reverie is interrupted when a beautiful ballet dancer, armed with a knife, runs past. When gunfire follows, Richard Rory knows it's more than a white rabbit moment.  He trips over her in his pursuit; she's hiding from some masked and armed pursuers. She assumes Rory is one of them, but Man-Thing stops her from using the knife in perceived defence. One of the masked followers finds them, but is halted by Man-Thing, giving him a chance to escape--only to find the tires of his van sliced. Knowing now he's not one of the enemy, she explains her story. Her name is Sybil Mills, and while waiting for her brother to pick her up after dance class, she was kidnapped in Miami by these masked men, who call themselves the Demons of Liberation. They promised to free her after their demands were met. After a long drive  to Topequa, she managed to escape  into the swamp when they stopped to remove a fallen tree from the road. With the foe in pursuit, and Man-Thing not far behind, the couple makes their way to the town motel to use the phone and call the police, but the Liberators catch up to them. Man-Thing to the rescue; the team admits defeat, and remove their masks. Shockingly it is her brother and his fellow Vietnam vets who staged the kidnapping! With no intent of hurting her, they wanted to protest against the government that was happy to send them off to war, but didn't care enough to even give them a job upon their return. The men had all been caught in a Napalm burst, leaving them disfigured-- and shunned. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: Steve Gerber gives us an interesting story here. We have the undesired solitude Richard Rory faces, and the much more real exile faced by the war vets, tossed aside after completing their time of duty. A fitting story for this title, Ted Sallis facing perhaps the worst exile of all, as the empathic Man-Thing, unable to communicate with others in the ways you and I take for granted. A genuine surprise at the end, with a simple and honest message.  

Matthew: Ploog’s swamp—er, swan—song is, unfortunately, not one of Gerber’s finest hours, although the artwork (inked, as usual, by Chiaramonte) is up to their customary standards, and I enjoy seeing Rory take a prominent role in the proceedings.  Steve’s script is as offbeat as ever, which is fine, yet it doesn’t seem to hang together very well; realism is obviously not the primary trait we look for in a Man-Thing story, but as intriguing as its premise may be, this one seems far-fetched, full of plot holes and lapses in logic, e.g., where did these unemployed “Demons of Liberation” get their “weird weapon” and financing?  Moreover, its antiwar message strikes me as heavy-handed, even by Steve’s standards, which some would opine is no small feat.

Mark: Steve Gerber is probably the greatest "oddball" comic writer to emerge in the almost-anything -goes atmosphere of the early 1970's. Allowed to really cut loose on his own titles (more so than during his temporary stewardship of traditional long underwear titles like Daredevil), even Gerber's missteps are largely noble failures.

An exception is "Dance to the Murder." This is like watching Elaine dance on Seinfeld, without the laughs, a wince-worthy disaster about disfigured Vietnam vets dressing up like spacemen in a Ed Wood epic, with the knuckle-headed notion of somehow raising awareness about their plight at the point of a tommy gun (to say nothing of their futuristic ray-gun; what army surplus store stocks those, Steve?).

Chris: Steve sets up the story well, as the details about Sybil and her mysterious, bizarrely-masked assailants are doled out gradually.  The build doesn’t pay off at the end, as we’re told that Sybil’s wounded brother hoped that her abduction would (somehow) bring attention to the veterans’ plight in a “dramatic” way.  The message is trowel-laden by Steve, who ordinarily is never this ham-handed.  If M-T #11 were an Italian Renaissance painting, I’d want it x-rayed to see if there might be evidence of his apprentices’ hands finishing the work for him.  Lastly, if the vets mean no harm, then why would they be prowling around in the swamp with a laser weapon that has a setting that goes up to “swamp-monster fry” ?  

Poor Richard Rory seems to be catching a break this time – he’s able to take an active role in the story instead of being buffeted about like usual.  Steve’s writing about the agonizing emptiness of loneliness is poignant, and Richard’s ease as he speaks with Manny is credible, and touching.  Can a Man-Thing feel lonely?  Is he aware of being alone?  
We’ll all miss Mike Ploog – no one captures Manny quite as well.  Man-Thing’s monstrosity stems not only from his inhuman head (snake-like snout, red doll-eyes, no mouth!) and Tarkinesque stench, but his hulking misshapenness, with his huge shoulders and long arms, complete with those nasty claws at the end.  He’s very oozy and drippy, too.  No other artist masters all these details better than Ploog.  
Mark: In a torn from the headlines topical move, Gerber throws in a reference to the Patty Hearst kidnapping because – stay with me now, class - the plot revolves around alone again (naturally) Richard Rory helping a spandex-clad dancer escape the pursuit (with Manny in tow) of the dressed like spacemen vets. Seems one of the wounded whack-a-dos is the dancer's brother, who felt kidnapping her at gunpoint was the best way to recruit her to their cause...or some such nonsense.

You can't make this up, this cow flop.

And neither could Gerber.

Scott: In the final panel, Rich Rory looks a hell of a lot like Velma from Scooby-Doo. Considering how this takes place in a swamp and climaxes with a "surprise" unmasking, it's even more appropriate. Another decent but average tale. This is a pretty bland month for Marvel. The masks are somewhat Twilight Zone-ish in how they resemble the faces of those underneath them. It all seems like a lot of commotion for little, but it's Mike Ploog at the pencil, so I'm happy to go along for the ride.

Marvel Team-Up 27
The Amazing Spider-Man &
The Incredible Hulk in
"A Friend in Need!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Jim Mooney, Frank Giacoia, and David Hunt
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Jim Starlin

While studying, Peter is shocked to hear of a failed attempt by “Spider-Man” to break into the New York Men’s Detention Center; as he swings to investigate, the Hulk happens to land on the getaway car of the Chameleon, who disguises himself as Rick Jones and asks a favor of his “friend.”  Peter’s arrival coincides with that of JJJ, who needs a photographer, and they see the Hulk break in to free Joe Cord, who saved the Chameleon’s life as a child.  Peter changes back to Spidey and is unable to prevent the break-out, but after he follows and reveals “Rick’s” true identity, Joe dies stopping a bullet for the Chameleon during a shoot-out with the police and the Hulk, having learned a lesson in friendship, leaps off to help his fellow Defenders. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Before returning control of your television set—er, MTU—to Conway, Wein pulls off a gamma trifecta with the Hulk’s usual monthly mags and this tale, which directly follows his hissy fit in Defenders #17.  Interestingly, with its focus on friendship, it fits into that book’s continuity thematically more than as part of a particular story arc, and succeeds despite a disappointing Starlin cover.  Yet again, Lively Len digs deep to produce not only Spidey’s very first costumed foe but also a venerable Tales to Astonish Hulk villain, who by definition justifies the MARMIS (although how he was prepared to impersonate Rick I’ll never know), while Fearless Frank demonstrates that in the hands of the proper inker, the Madman’s pencils can be quite acceptable.

Joe: A real nice Starlin cover kicks off this one nicely, including one of the more ferocious Hulk grimaces I've ever seen. Inside we get a nice story that zips along quite well, with action, Hulk-isms, fake Rick Jones, loyalty that knows no bounds, humor and JJJ's mouth webbed up, which is always a welcome sight! Although he's no Sal B., Mooney does a decent job on Hulk. Issues like these made me run to Grand Candy every week! (Not to mention, they had awesome Egg Creams.)

Scott: The Starlin cover is amazing and much better than the Mooney/Esposito art within. The Chameleon is a good villain, but underused and not at his best this time either. Peter and Jameson kind of patch up their difficulties this issue, but I'd prefer to see that in Spidey's own book, not this fifth-tier title.

The Mighty Thor 229
"Where Darkness Dwells, Dwell I"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Rich Buckler and Chic Stone
Colors by Linda Lessman
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito

Thor and Hercules have returned to Earth. As the former flies to observe his adopted homeland, Hercules has a different experience walking the streets. He senses despair everywhere, and captures a common criminal robbing an elderly man. He then witnesses another man light his gas stove on fire and kill himself. The explosion catches Thor's attention and he comes to the scene in time to put the fire out with a rainstorm. They meet police Detective Blumkenn, who tells them that this is the fourth incident where a seemingly normal person muttered something like "he promised me life in death" then proceeded to commit suicide. When Thor asks Odin's council for advice, the All-Father sends Sif to Earth instead to help them. Hercules wanders the same streets as before looking for clues, when he confronts a figure who is following him: an opaque black shadow man, who silently attacks with considerable strength. Then from an opening to the sewers below the street, the wiry hands of many demons grab Hercules and pull him down. Meanwhile, Thor and Sif see that the goddess Krista is fully recovered, but no sooner do they greet her than Hercules bursts into the room and, looking mad, utters to Thor the words "where darkness dwells, dwell I" and then collapses into unconsciousness. -Jim Barwise

Jim: I remember this being the first issue of Thor I bought brand new at a drugstore on the way home from school. Mainly it's the cover that stands out to me; I don't have a clear memory of the rest. At the time I was still buying different comics sporadically and wasn't yet an all-out Thor fan. This time around the first thing that sticks out is the inking by Chic Stone, who had done most of the issues of Journey Into Mystery up to  #115. His style is less dramatic than Joe Sinnott's and less detailed than Vince Colletta's (at his best), but pleasingly clean and simple. It's good to see the goddess Krista back finally. The mystery that develops almost seems too mundane for Thor or Hercules until the man of darkness comes and the demons snatch Hercules away. The ending is effectively chilling, seeing the Olympian lose his fearlessness. 

Chris: A fair issue of Hercules, Prince of Power, with Thor dropping in for a few moments too.  Gerry sets up the mystery well – any power that can set the lion’s heart of Hercules a-trembling must be mighty mighty indeed.  Stone is well-suited to any penciller on this title.  The art reaches so deeply into Kirbiana, though, that I have to wonder – would Jack have been pleased by the homage, or might he have thought about calling a lawyer?

Matthew: This is a curious issue in several ways, starting with its Ron Wilson cover, which is undeniably handsome yet utterly generic, as though they didn’t know what would be happening inside.  The interior inks are wildly uneven, which may simply indicate that Silver-Age vet Chic Stone was past his prime and/or ill-suited to Buckler’s pencils, but also may be indicative of a rush job.  Conversely—and this is not a criticism; quite the reverse, actually—Conway’s story is anything but rushed, in marked contrast to the pell-mell pace of so many of his cosmic sagas, and allowing time for the introduction of recurring character Detective Sergeant Blumkenn (whose first name, as we shall learn, is Ralph), so it will be interesting to see where Gerry goes with this.

Scott: This is a weird issue in story as well as art. I don't know if it's Chic Stone's inks or Buckler's pencils, but this feels like third rate Kirby. The story can't decide if it wants to be brutal or lightly strange. It's great to not have another world-breaking space opera, but this feels like so much filler. If not for it being a multi part story, I would think this was a "dreaded deadline doom" fill-in comic.

The Tomb of Dracula 26
"Where Lurks the Chimera!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

An ancient statue known as The Chimera allegedly holds enormous power and, thus, Dracula wants possession of the relic. Unfortunately for the Count, he's not alone in his desire. A mystery man steals The Chimera from its owner but Dracula discovers the man's hidden fortress. The crumbs that lead to the estate may have been purposely laid out however since the Count is quickly trapped between four walls and water begins flooding the enclosed room. Holy water! -Peter Enfantino

Mark: There's too little Drac in this one for my taste. The Count doesn't appear at all on 10 of the 17 pages (and he only gets a couple panels on three more) as Marvelous Marv goes deep on supporting characters and sub-plots. I appreciate this effort to expand the canvas but two pages devoted to human test pattern Frank Drake grinds the proceedings to a halt, and while the stolen (by Dr. Sun's goons?) Chimera is a powerful talisman, do we really need three pages of told-by-an-old-witch backstory that mixes the Jewish mysticism and Bible verses of the opening with King Kull and Atlantis?

When the resultant hodge-podge does little to entrance the reader and our titular anti-hero barely appears in his own mag, the answer is a resounding no.

Peter: I'd disagree, Professor Mark. I love that Marv continually drops in these interesting characters and incidents. I only wish I had the time to read each and every issue (and I may have to make time in the future!) as what Marv is doing, to me, is mapping out what looks like an epic story over 70 issues. Quoting Solomon and Proverbs in a Marvel comic book usually has me rolling my eyes (yes, I'm looking at you Doug "The Poet" Moench) but here it's organic and almost seems to thread its way through the narrative like ivy. I loved the Kull shout-out; the PG-13 sexual shenanigans that Nick Drake and Chastity Jones (Chastity? Get it?) get up to; the EC-inspired Old Witch; the volumes of dialogue; the characters who flit in and out (and who may or may not be people of good moral standing); and, maybe most of all, Gene Colan's glorious art. Hell, I even smiled at the Adam West/ Batman-inspired climax. 

Chris: Dracula seeks the chimera, so that he can use it to prevent his bloodlust?  Sounds good – in fact, it’s a much better idea (on Marv’s part, I mean) than any of these other sort-of world conquest ideas that are attributed to Drac from time to time (for instance, whatever it was that Drac hoped to accomplish by killing the doctor on the cruise ship in Giant-Size Spider-Man #1).  

Strange coincidence – in our trusty letters column this month, young stalwart Ralph Macchio (him again!) observes how Drac’s need for human blood is “a craving he [relishes] with animal ferocity” – why then (in Dracula Lives #1) would Drac seeks a cure for vampirism?  Roy seeks to set the record straight, as he explains how Drac might seek relief from his daily dependence on blood replenishment.  So clearly, the chimera could be a means to that end.  
I was a little put-off by the suggestion that the chimera might be 30,000 yrs old – I mean, 3000 yrs would be old enough, right? – until Marv explained that its origin was traced back to ancient Atlantis.  Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? 30,000 yrs is fine by me.
For an art highlight in this ish, I suggest you pick your favorite Drac snapshot (yes, I know, his image wouldn’t transfer to film) – I’m going to go with the determined blood-red face on p 11, pal 3 (reprinted above left).  Although p 10, pnl 2 (reprinted far above) is really chillingly spooky.  And p 27, pnl 7 is classic Drac.  You can’t go wrong.
Mark: But the book's not all "take notes, class" exposition. Vlad's hypnotic, red-eyed gaze turns a knife-wielding mob's fury on itself, then he sups on the bloody remains. And Drac deploying his thrall Shiela Whittier as a femme fatale to beguile newly-orphaned David Eshcol is a nice touch, if spun out to page-gobbling length.

The Colan/Palmer art is excellent, as always, and the great cliffhanger of the Count trapped in a cell rapidly filling with holy water goes a long way to make up for what's mostly a meandering, off-focus issue.

Scott: A cliffhanger ending of Drac being threatened by an incoming torrent of Holy Water is the "soul searing shock ending" promised on the cover? You know, Marvel was never one to shy away from hyperbole, but that's just blatantly untrue. I was expecting a traumatic death or a Twilight Zone style flip. I hate that sort of bait and switch. It's a middling issue with nothing particularly fascinating, so maybe they felt they had a dog on their hands. Whatever. Next. 

Werewolf by Night 23
"The Murderer is a Maniac"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin and Vince Colletta
Colors by Linda Lessman
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Ron Wilson and John Romita

Jack is questioned by Lt. Northrup to no avail, then he calls Buck and makes bail. Buck recounts the story of the Werewolf's battle against Atlas, then tells the tale of arrogantly handsome muscleman sword-and-sandal actor Steve Rand, who loved doing his own stunts, including a dangerous one where the hero Atlas needed to swing over a pit of fire to rescue the heroine—in a movie written by Buck! The stunt went badly and Rand was driven insane by the sight of his own mangled face. Five years later, Rand was released from the hospital and started murdering people associated with his last film, including the actress who played Bathsheba. As the sun sets, Atlas/Rand smashes into Buck's place to "slay the King" who wrote the screenplay, but Second Night begins and Jack transforms! The Werewolf flees, with adamant Atlas in tow, thinking the creature is a stunt man. They end up in Mann's Chinese Theater, with Atlas gaining the upper hand until Buck runs in to distract him, leaving Werewolf to leap in again—but then he's slammed head-first into a statue twice and smote with the jawbone. But as Atlas goes in for the final finishing touch, Buck shoots him in the back with the silver bullet Jack meant for the Werewolf! Atlas falls into wet cement with a "SPUFF!", Lt. Northrup comes in to clean up, Buck laments Rand's lost life and the Werewolf sits licking his wounds in a dirty alley. –Joe Tura

Our weekly dose of cheese

Joe: An OK wrap-up to the Atlas saga sees Moench firmly entrenched in the Raymond Chandler-ese that befalls every writer of WBN. Why, you ask? Beats the heck out of me! The art is super average this month, and long shots of Atlas' Toxic Avenger-like face are so un-detailed and messy they look like a first grader drew it. Well, it's still better than I could do! Nice to see Buck stick up for his friend, even though Werewolf almost killed him last ish. See how loyal writers are!

How clever on page 22, panel 3, that we get to see "Lon Chaney Jr." in the Mann's Chinese Theater cement! Yeah, clever, that's it. Then on page 27, we see the handprints of Bela Lugosi and Henry Hull. Clever! Well, I guess that all makes sense. Why not…

Chris: It’s not often we see the Werewolf run from a fight.  It makes far less sense for him to be drawn to “the bright lights in the courtyard” of the Chinese Theater – since when has the Werewolf wanted to escape to a bright, crowded space, when he ordinarily seeks the deep, dark solace of the woods?  And how did he get up on top of the roof in only one panel (p 22) – scene missing?  

This particular art team has shown no improvement at all, despite working together on three consecutive issues.  The action and snarling wolfie-faces of p 26 are the closest we get to a highlight for the art.  We’ve already seen Rand’s ugly face (last issue), so there’s no shock value this time – the reveal on p 14 could easily be a fright mask from the party store.  Rand’s face looks its worst (its best?) on p 27, first pnl (above right).  Most of the time, Rand’s face looks unfinished (no surprise), so it looks odd, but not menacing, or grotesque, or anything else.  

The Invincible Iron Man 71
"Battle: Tooth and Yellow Claw
(Confrontation: Part 3)"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito

Iron Man smashes his way into the Mandarin’s castle to confront the Claw, who unleashes a cybernetic “frog-glob” (created by “chief mutationist” Hop Ling), destroyed with electricity, and explosive mini-robots, which immobilize him with their “stingers” and place him in a rocket.  Chief Kuon Set, who duped Marty into helping to build the hidden city, decrees that he must die because he knows of Dragonfire; meanwhile, Iron Man escapes the rocket just before its destruction and prevails over a giant mutated bug that shoots radioactive flames.  Overhearing the newly arrived Black Lama’s scheme, Iron Man attacks, damaging vital machinery that blows up the castle, but although both villains escape, the Hogans are now reconciled, and return to S.I. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: This issue’s SF-flavored battles are largely inconclusive, despite the resolution of the Hogans’ “marital spat,” while Tuskosito bottoms out with the WTF Claw in page 17, panel 4 and beady-eyed Kuon Set in page 23, panel 2.  Note to Mike:  if you’re going to dole a subplot like Marty’s out in dribs and drabs over several issues, don’t waste a whole page recapping them or we’ll never get anywhere, especially in a bimonthly.  Speaking of which, per the lettercol, “in case any of you are wondering why this issue appears only one month after last month’s, we hate to dash your hopes, but it’s (apparently) something cooked up over in Accounting and not a return to monthly status”; guess those chefs used the wrong recipe, since #70 was published in September!

Scott: A solid if unremarkable action issue. There's not much to it, just a lot of fighting, a little mystery building with Marty March, and Happy and Pepper are back together. Not to mention Happy and Tony's friendship back in place. Yay. Tuska still makes Iron Man's helmet look a little wonky and he gives us his usual pencils. Not bad but nothing to go nuts about either.

Jungle Action 12
The Black Panther in
"Once You Slay the Dragon!"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Billy Graham and Klaus Janson
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

T’Challa has enlisted two of Killmonger’s minions, Kazibe and Tayete, to accompany him on the treacherous crossing of the Chasm of Chilling Mist; the frozen lands across the ancient wooden bridge are known only to legend.  Killmonger reportedly has retreated this way, following the defeat of Lord Karnaj’s forces (in JA #11).  T’Challa succeeds in taking his rival by surprise, as Killmonger is overseeing a ritual involving King Cadaver’s renewed exposure to celestial power, provided by the mysterious Sombre’s Resurrection Altar.  Killmonger regains the upper hand, and flings T’Challa into the star-power’s incinerating pit.  The Panther nimbly redirects his momentum, and twists his body out of harm’s way, only to suffer the scalding touch of Sombre.  T’Challa awakens outdoors, in the sub-zero glacial night, and quickly is beset by a pack of starved wolves.  He redirects his rage for Killmonger toward the attacking animals, establishes his dominance, and dismisses further threat from them.  T’Challa sits alone, to await the remote promise of dawn, his thoughts of nothing but the promise of victory.  -Chris Blake

Chris: I give Don credit for concocting a way to set a Jungle Action story in a snowy clime.  I don’t think any of us had grown tired of the tropical locale, but the new setting does add another wrinkle to the story.  Don also provides an update on Cadaver, plus some explanation as to how he turned out to be so hideous; we have another villainous presence in Sombre, plus some suggestion of the star-pit as a possible source of Killmonger’s power.  
I do question a few of Don’s choices, though: there are a few passages that are uncharacteristically overwritten (e.g.: what are T’Challa and Monica supposed to be saying to each other on p 3 (reprinted above) – it doesn’t fit the simply honest, caring exchange that tends to typify their conversation); Monica’s motivation for choosing to reach out to Karota (p 16) is not clear to me, plus their moment awkwardly interrupts the action; another animal-battle?  That’s what, four times now?  It’s hard for me to be too critical about this, since the wolf-fight is an organic fit in the story.  (It could be that I’m reaching for criticisms, so that I won’t appear to be giving this title a free pass -!)

The art continues to excel.  The frozen landscape is fittingly forbidding, and Sombre’s cavern-temple (p 14) is an eyeful, without losing shadowy atmospherics.  The hand-to-hand with Killmonger is a highlight, especially his contemptuously snarling expression (p15, pnl 5) and T’Challa’s surprised reaction (reprinted right).  How about the very last panel (p 23), as T’Challa appears to be crouched in a bony eye-socket, with a burning-red eye staring down on him!  Nice choice, also, to skip the “Next issue!” hype at the bottom of the page, and leave our hero with only the word “Alone.”
Matthew:  From the luscious purple background of its cover (arguably matched by McGregor’s prose, although I’ve never minded it), penciled by original artist Buckler, and its typically poetic title to its deeply ambivalent ending, “Blood Stains on Virgin Snow!” represents the Wakandan dream team at its, uh, peak.  The deeply layered narrative is leavened with humor—“Stop calling me Panther-Devil!”—and matched by the striking Graham/Janson visuals, as the numerous small panels are balanced by the spectacular shots of Sombre’s cavern on page 14 and T’Challa’s battle with the wolves on pages 18-19.  This issue’s reprint-preventers are a two-page “special retrospective” showing the saga’s various locations and an expanded lettercol.

Ka-Zar 6
"Waters of Darkness, River of Doom!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Alfredo Alcala
Cover by John Buscema

As Ka-Zar starts off his morning with a dip into the river to hunt for breakfast, Zabu hears a scream in the distance, which is a young man being attacked by two terrifying pterodactyls. Ka-Zar arrives in time to fell one, while Zabu handles the other, and the stranger, Kem Horkus, later awakes to tell his story. 20 years ago the boy’s brother came up the river with a raft full of men to search for game and met The Behemoth, who fought off spears, killed most of the men and scarred Kem’s brother, taking his right eye and left arm. In the present, the brother, Bar Horkus, is seething with revenge against The Behemoth, armed with a pair of hunting rafts and a band of not-so-merry men, featuring the ultra-skeptical Ghakar. K-Z & Zabu arrive to the camp with Kem, and after a short scuffle are greeted as friends and vow to help Bar slay his “white whale”. They all head out the next morning, with giant crossbows and a can’t-miss plan. But when they meet The Behemoth (actually an aquatic lizard called a Tylosaurus), the crossbow misses, Ghakar’s boat turns away and Bar’s raft is smashed to bits, leaving behind bloody carnage that ends when Bar is eaten by the “devil-spawned nightmare”. Ka-Zar swoops in and gets vengeance by slaying the creature, with only Kem left to seek justice by finding the traitorous Ghakar. – Joe Tura

Joe: “ALL-NEW Adventures of the Greatest Jungle Hero Ever!” exclaims the action-packed front cover of the latest Ka-Zar epic. How’s that for marketing! Alcala does double duty on inks and letters, and it gives this much-maligned (by me) title a whole new feel. But is this a good thing? It certainly puts a different spin on the legendary Buscema’s pencils, especially in the dripping scars of Bar Horkus (which sounds like a lame-o soft porn Cinemax movie name…Gerry is ahead of his time here), the angry close-ups of faithful Zabu and the extra-sinewy shots of our Jungle Lord’s twisting torso. Gerry’s script is a mix of Stan-esque hyperbole (“This is Destiny’s Monster!”), Bible verse quotes and introspective thinking from our hero, which is a new direction for sure. And it’s a better direction, though nowhere as entertaining as Spinal Tap’s “Jazz Odyssey”. A good start for the new creative team. But it’s Ka-Zar after all, so I remain as skeptical as Ghakar…

Some heated discussion on the letters pages make for fun reading, from the knucklehead called “The Pathfinder” (sheesh…) who points out a tiny coloring mistake; to the frightening prospect thrown out there by Dan Keepers, who wants this book to be monthly (NNNOOOOOOO!!!!!); to the loooong letter by Maura Kaufman, who goes on and on and on and on about Judo, which she feels was mentioned poorly in K-Z #4—and they swiftly turn her to Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu. Always cross-promoting!

By the way, I hope one day to become a “brigand” (page 14). That’s the job for me! 


Marvel Premiere #19
Iron Fist in
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Larry Hama and Dick Giordano
Colors by Jan Brunner
Letters by Ray Holloway
Cover by Jim Starlin and Jack Abel

After leaving Meachum Towers, Iron Fist is approached by a beautiful Asian woman named Colleen Wing who asks the hero to come to her father’s house. Unnoticed by the woman, the Living Weapon thwarts a pair of assassins on the way. When they arrive, her father, a professor of Oriental Studies at Columbia University, tells Daniel Rand that the assassins were members of the Cult of Kara-Kai. The cultists are after the academic since, during one of his expeditions to Asia, he discovered a cursed book that contained the secret to the ultimate destruction of K’un-Lun. Professor Wing also learned of how Daniel Rand gave up immortality to seek revenge on the killer of his parents. The Professor urges Iron Fist to phone Joy Meachum and try to explain his innocence and that her father was actually killed by the ninja. Joy agrees to meet the martial artist at an abandoned arcade owned by Meachum Industries. At the arcade, Iron Fist is attacked by four men armed with knives and kyoketsu-shogis, barbed blades attached to grappling hooks. While he manages to fight them off at first, Iron Fist eventually becomes ensnared by the hooks. Just when things look bleak, the ninja appears once again and the hired killers are defeated. The ninja returns to the shadows after tossing Rand a newspaper with the headline “Iron Fist Sought in Meachum Murder!” -Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn: Colleen Wing makes her first appearance with this one, Doug Moench’s last issue. I wonder if Devil May Care had planned that Colleen would become such major player in the Iron Fist universe, eventually teaming with Misty Knight to become the Daughters of the Dragon. Her father, Professor Lee Wing, is much more important here and in successive issues. It was also Hama’s last Iron Fist assignment and he is once again wildly inconsistent, with some panels recalling Neal Adams and others Don Adams. While Joy Meachum — who calls our hero Mr. Flashy Iron Fist — appears to be pulling the strings, her uncle Ward is the true mastermind. The Cult of Kara-Kai storyline will continue for the next few issues, finally wrapping up with #22. Iron Fist should thank his throwing stars for the ninja, who has saved his bacon multiple times. After three consecutive months of publication, Marvel Premiere will go bi-monthly after this one, with issue #20 making its appearance in January of 1975. That one marks the first time that Iron Fist faces off against an already established Marvel villain, urk, gack, Batroc. Sacre blew!

Scott: With the origin behind us, Iron Fist's story becomes a little less interesting. Some intrigue, but overall, a little bland. There's nothing about Danny Rand to grab onto. He's never out of costume, so he seems like a non-entity outside of the Iron Fist identity. I hope this is remedied soon. The art is good, if a little stiff. It still feels like a DC comic, thanks to Dick G.'s inking.

Matthew: A Bullpen Bonus Page erroneously reports an imminent B&W Iron Fist; meanwhile, this book will be published erratically, with intervals of 1-3 months between issues through the end of 1975, until it finally stabilizes as a bimonthly for the duration.  My distant but fond memories of the forthcoming Inhumans suggest that Moench (apparently a B&W mainstay) had more in his asset column than I remembered, and while I know Professor Flynn pooh-poohed his “death-trap” debut in #17, I’d say overall he’s done a fine job, taking IF in interesting directions while building on his mythology.  Despite Giordano’s minimalist inks, Hama is well-matched with the character, yet for better or worse the entire creative team is replaced next issue.

Yes, we all know that this strip goes on to feature the first collaboration of Claremont and Byrne, whom I wouldn’t hesitate to rank among Marvel’s greatest writer/artist teams, mixed though my feelings about their solo efforts may be.  Yet I think it’s important to look at these earlier issues in context and on their own merits, bearing in mind, for example, that however much Claremont made Colleen Wing his own in later years, Moench introduced her here.  I also enjoy reading in various lettercols how much effort Marvel put into trying to differentiate its thematically similar strips (e.g., Iron Fist/Shang-Chi, Ghost Rider/Son of Satan) by varying emphases, etc.; one may not agree with a given approach, which might change anyway, but they were clearly thought out.

A special “Wall of Hats” tip of the lid to our faculty Host with the Most, Tom Flynn, through whose legendary hospitality I read the Marvel Masterworks edition of this issue in my second encounter with the format.  Tom has the first two Iron Fist volumes, and as always they contain sumptuously reproduced reprints and engrossing, informative introductions, the first of them by Roy Thomas.  The day before—May 16, to be precise—accompanied for too short a time by Professor Gilbert, we had enjoyed documentaries on such favorites of one or more faculty members as Stan Lee, Sergio Leone, John Milius, and Ed Wood; our ever-considerate Host also offered a cannibal movie (Zombi [sicHolocaust) for Gil and a chick flick (Young Adult) for me.

Marvel Two-In-One 6
The Thing and Dr. Strange in
"Death-Song of Destiny!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Jim Starlin and John Romita

Harassed by hoods Nick Cromer and Duff Coogan, a young girl falls from a subway platform.  At her behest, and to Clea’s astonishment, Dr. Strange retrieves her harmonica from Duff instead of saving the girl, but when the train strikes her, she explodes in a shower of colorful sparks that settle on—and into—all those present, including homeless drunk Alvin Denton and a Brooklyn couple, Sheldon and Renee Goldenberg.  While Strange and Clea return to the Sanctum Sanctorum to investigate the secrets of the harmonica, which is inscribed “Celestia,” the Thing is summoned to Yancy Street by a late-night phone call from Duff’s grandmother, who looked after Ben like a second mother while both of his parents were working. 

Using the Eye of Agamotto, Strange invokes the spirit of the girl, a manifestation of destiny who had taken on a human form by chance, yet although she cannot divulge the harmonica’s role, she reveals that the action or inaction of those present at her “death” will affect each one’s destiny.  Strange locates Sheldon, whose fear of losing his identity has resulted in the disappearance of his facial features, and plants a mental suggestion that helps him redirect his life.  After discovering that the Yancy Street Gang has defaced his aero-car, Ben encounters Strange (whom he met in FF #27); comparing notes, they learn they are on the same case, and save Duff from a giant rat symbolizing his despair...but at the Sanctum, Clea reports that Valkyrie has taken the harmonica. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: I was surprised to see Tuska’s byline on the splash page, since I have a very clear visual memory of Buscema’s work on #7, and of course Our Pal was also midway through his run on Defenders, where this arc concludes in #20.  I’m very fond of this trilogy, which forms a marvelous bridge between Gerber’s stints on the two titles, giving him early experience writing Doc (whom he handles well) and Clea, while providing some delightful background on Ben, whose “flamin’ saltines” line is priceless.  Uneven as always, the Tuskosito team also does right by Doc, and even provides a surprisingly acceptable Thing, but the two Yancy Street hoods, in particular, are standard-issue Tuska caricatures; the striking cover is by inaugural Marvel Feature artist Starlin.

Giant-Size Man-Thing 2
"Of Monsters and Men!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by John Buscema and Klaus Janson
Colors by Linda Lessman
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by John Buscema

The Man-Thing wanders around the remains of what had been the Franklin Schist construction site, still sensing the evil he had brought to the swamp. A passing police car brings two new visitors: Mrs. Vivian Schist and her daughter Carolyn. Wife of the late construction baron, Vivian is determined to find blame for her husband's death; Carolyn's sadness relates more to her father's absence in her life. Sensing the latter draws Manny to make an appearance, the resulting fear convinces Vivian that he was the cause of death. Carolyn, though frightened, isn't so sure, sensing something human from the beast. Vivian organizes a gathering of scientists at her family mansion, offering one million bucks to anyone who will successfully kill the beast. The only taker is Dane Gavin of the New York Ecological Museum who counters he will capture the Man-Thing for study at the museum and donate the money to charity (only considering murder if proof is found of her husband's death). She takes the offer, and Tony Stark helps Gavin come up with a trap to contain the Man-Thing. It does, and they transport him to a replica of the swamp, albeit with walls. The museum board (including Tony Stark and Reed Richards) decide--against Gavin's wishes--that the creature should be publically viewed to raise more money and create press. Once aware he truly is not in the swamp, the Man-Thing breaks free and heads out on the streets of New York! The police try unsuccessfully to stop him, but Manny is weakening, and he collapses in a park fountain, craving water. Dane realizes they have done something wrong, and returns the Man-Thing to the swamp, a slight empathic connection between them.  -Jim Barwise

Jim: Where to start with this one? John Buscema perhaps? One of Marvel's best illustrates this epic in a manner resembling the Silver Surfer's short-lived title, with some standout full-pagers (like Manny getting trapped in the swamp). Being a longer issue gives us lots of Manny's inner dialogue, which some recent issues have been scarce on. New characters Dane Gavin and the Schist girls add some depth to the proceedings. The cameos of Ben Grimm, Reed Richards and Tony Stark bring the Man-Thing ever closer to the rest of the Marvel universe. The incongruence of his walking the streets of New York is both delightfully appealing and entirely sympathetic to his character.

Chris: I know my brain works only slightly better than that of a metamorphized muck-monster's, but still, I should get why the police officer’s fear didn’t prove incendiary for him when Manny closed in and hefted him up (p 9) – the reason, somehow is “obvious” to Steve.  I have the same question about why there aren’t any guests a-sizzlin’ when M-T cuts loose at the museum.  Isn’t it their overpowering fear that had caused Manny to lash out?  

Steve continues to find nifty little moments to illustrate Man-Thing’s inhuman mostly-mindlessness.  This time, it’s on page 18: “the memories always fade too quickly . . . before he can take hold of them . . . leaving him even more empty than before.”  So, I have to question why Steve would suggest that Manny would notice “the silvery panel is gone” from the sky, when he returns to the real swamp.  It’s likelier, and more pathos-inducing, to indicate that M-T has no recollection of the sky ever looking any different than it does now, since “now” is all he knows (if we even can apply a term like “knows,” right?).  

Chris: I think it’s a mistake to unleash M-T, Kong-style, on an unsuspecting New York.  I prefer the idea of Manny as a swamp-figment, with people literally questioning whether they have seen this monstrosity, or if the mire has somehow soaked into their minds.  If Manny is front-page news for the Post, then he loses a lot of his mystery.  
Buscema is an unusual choice, but of course he makes the art work; his Man-Thing is larger, which makes him more menacing, and potentially more fear-inducing (pg. 9 pal 1 reprinted right) .  I don’t ordinarily like Big John paired with Average-Sized Klaus, but we can’t expect much murk from Joe Sinnott, right?  The clear downside to Janson is his typical nonchalance about finishing facial details, which at times can make Manny look insubstantial – or, perhaps, as if he were wearing a latex Hallowe’en mask of himself.  Speaking of faces – I can’t decide whether John & Klaus wanted Dr Gavin to look like Sam Waterston, Terence Stamp, or Jack Palance.  What do you think?  
Scott: Just when you thought we were done with Schist, now we have his family to contend with. Luckily, they're not nearly as annoying and don't seem to be set up as recurring characters. One and done is fine with me. The Buscema/Janson art is nice, but this will always be Ploog's turf to me. Reed Richards' appearance amounts to little more than a reminder that Manny is in the Marvel Universe. It's a decent length, but with still some pages to fill, we get a few pretty mediocre reprints to pad things out. Why these Giant-Size issues exist at all is a mystery. Aside from the inflated cover price, that is.

Matthew:  It’s family night, as Schist’s “heirs” materialize and Big John proves less vulnerable than his baby brother to Klaus’s insidious inks, barring some egregious face work, most horrifically on the Thing.  He doesn’t have the feel for Man-Thing of a Ploog (MIA due to a Planet of the Apes conflict) or a Mayerik, but his pencils are generally excellent, with interesting “camera angles” and impressive full-pagers like that spectacular shot of Manny caught in the trap.  Bob Powell’s “He Stalks by Night!” (Strange Tales #51, October 1956) joins two reprints from Tales to Astonish #15 (January 1961):  “The Blip!” (Lee/Kirby/Ayers)—who, like Goom, resurges in Hulk Annual #5—and Don Heck’s “I Dared Enter the Forbidden World!”

Also This Month

Chamber of Chills #13

Crypt of Shadows #14
Kid Colt Outlaw #188
Marvel's Greatest Comics #53
Marvel Spectacular #11
Marvel Super-Heroes #47
Marvel Tales #55
Marvel Triple Action #22
My Love #31
Nostalgia Illustrated #1 >
Rawhide Kid #123
Sgt Fury #123
Spidey Super Stories #2
The Human Torch #2
Tomb of Darkness #11
Vault of Evil #15
Where Monsters Dwell #32


Special Album Edition: 
The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu
Cover by Harold Shull

"The Master Plan of Fu Manchu
Chapter One: Iron Fist"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Frank McLaughlin and The Crusty Bunkers

News Feature by J. David Warner and Mary Skrenes

"Fu Manchu, Sax Rohmer and Shang-Chi"
Overview by David Anthony Kraft

"The Master Plan of Fu Manchu
Chapter Two: The Sons of the Tiger"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Herb Trimpe

"The Chinese Mechanic"
Text by J. David Warner

"Shaolin Flashback"
Text by Malachi Ronin

"The Master Plan of Fu Manchu:
Chapter 3: The Hands of Shang-Chi,
Master of Kung Fu"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Vosburg and Dan Adkins

Here's an oddball in the Marvel Universe, an 84-page whatchamajig carrying a Summer 1974 date (and a hefty price of a crisp one dollar bill) but seemingly released later than that (it refers to events that took place in Deadly Hands #4 and features ads for Tales of the Zombie #8 among others). It's not an annual but it sure looks like one. Labelled the "Special Album Edition" and yet not filled with reprints, the obvious reason for its existence is that 1974 was the summer of kung fu.

There's the usual assortment of lovefests for David Carradine, Asian films, and kung fu tournaments (none of which was covered in my contract when I signed on to review this zine) and then there's the super-sized three part story entitled "The Master Plan of Fu Manchu."

Fu has kidnapped several Chinese U.N. delegates and laid out clues that point to a United States operation. It's up to 1/Iron Fist, 2/ The Sons of the Tiger, and 3/Fu's own son, The Master of Kung Fu, Shang-Chi to find the delegates before war breaks out between the U.S. and China. Unexpectedly, I've liked several of the chop sockey comics I've read so far on our journey but this one's not very good. For one thing, we're all waiting for the Marvel Team-Up this issue where all ten fists of steel join together to fight the minions of evil. What we get instead is akin to a Marvel relay race, with Iron Fist passing the baton to The Sons and then the boys handing it off to Shang. These guys literally stop in their tracks when the next heroes show up, ostensibly to go back to their hotel rooms and watch Kung Fu on the telly. The art, by various hands, is also a step down from Jim Starlin's wild and well-choreographed fight scenes. -Peter Enfantino

Mike Vosburg promises to study human anatomy as soon as he gets time.

Tales of the Zombie 8
Cover by Earl Norem

“The Happy Houngan Speaks”
Text by Tony Isabella

“A Death Made Out of Ticky-Tacky”
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Pablo Marcos

“Mails to the Zombie”

“Jimmy Doesn't Live Here Anymore”
Text by David Anthony Kraft

“Night of the Hunted”
Story by Larry Lieber
Art by Ron Wilson, Mike Esposito & Frank Giacoia

“Tale of the Happy Humfo”
Text by Chris Claremont

“Makao’s Vengeance”
Story by David Kraft
Art by Alfredo Alcala

Now the whole world knows what goes on when the staff of
Marvel University have their weekly meetings.

Tony Isabella, the new editor, gets the corpse rolling with a brief editorial that informs readers that, starting next issue, Alfredo Alcala will be replacing Pablo Marcos as the artist of the main feature. I’ll take that as a positive. Also, all the book and movie reviews will be replaced by short stories. As Professor Pete can attest, nonfiction or fiction, the text pieces in Marvel’s black-and-white magazines usually stink like the Zombie’s armpits, so let’s call that one a wash. But enough of that, let’s get to “A Death Made Out of Ticky-Tacky,” because it’s totally wackadoodle.

As Layla goes off to search for Papa Doc Kabel, a voodoo priest that might be able to lift Simon Garth’s curse, the Zombie senses the call of the other Amulet of Damballah. It leads him to the home of fireman Fred Miller, who found the matching talisman while battling the blaze at Papa Shorty’s temple (issue #5). Miller, who is also an avowed swinger, is partying with a few fellow-minded friends when the Zombie bursts in. The randy revelers soon realize that the undead creature is under control of whoever holds the amulet. At first, they make the Zombie dance like a marionette — but soon things turn deadly when Miller decides to use his new plaything to get revenge on his “super-straight neighbors.” First he tells the Zombie to a throttle a man who complains about his loud parties. Then, another swinger sends the monster to the home of his boss: the elderly man drops dead of a heart attack. Finally, a woman commands the Zombie to attack the “snooty” secretary in her typing pool. This victim turns out to be Layla: after the undead pawn smashes her in the face, the bloodied voodoo priestess manages to rip the amulet off of the Zombie’s neck. Freed from control, the thing formerly known as Simon Garth returns to Miller’s house and slaughters everyone inside.

"Night of the Hunted"
Hoo boy, this one was a doozy, offering gobs of sleazy cheese. Gerber must have had a bone to pick with swingers, since they are all portrayed as bloodthirsty fiends. Sheesh, it’s not like they’re Satan worshippers or something, they’re just looking for a little hassle-free love with multiple partners. But then again, Glen — “me and Dot are swingers, as in to swing” — in Raising Arizona was a total ass, so maybe Baby is on to something. Plus, Miller and crew decide to actually follow the Zombie on his unholy missions and carelessly loiter at the scene of each crime. Kinda defeats the whole purpose no? And when the Zombie first arrives at Miller’s house, all of the men are completely dressed yet the woman are shimmying around in their bra and panties. But I guess you have to work some skin into these things. With all that said, this is most definitely the one story I’ll remember from Tales of the Zombie when my professorship is over in a few years.

We also have two short comics on tap. Learning that a racist warden is using his prisoners in manhunts, a houngan gets himself arrested in “Night of the Hunted.” When the voodoo priest is murdered in one of these grisly games, he returns as a zombie to get his revenge. Nothing much to see here, but the warden does display some shocking racism: “Man? You ain’t a man! Men come in only one color, and it ain’t yours. Now move, black boy!” Yikes. In “Makao's Vengeance,” Ricardo Fenner travels to the African village of Dahomey to find gold. He stops by the hut of a bee-loving shaman named Makao, looking for guides. When Fenner begins to abuse the locals, Makao commands his flying little friends to sting the white man to death. Another goofy short, but Alcala’s awesome art does confirm that there is indeed good news in Isabella’s editorial.

In the short story “Jimmy Doesn't Live Here Anymore,” the young son of a New Orleans couple tragically dies. The father dreams that the mother raises the boy from the dead through voodoo. When the man wakes up, he hears a voice from the basement calling “Daddy?” This one reads like it is supposed to be some kind of existential rumination, but it comes across like a succession of 12-cent words that end in a conclusion you can see coming a mile away. And while he used simply David Kraft for “Makao's Vengeance,” this one is signed David Anthony Kraft. See? It’s IMPORTANT. Chris Claremont’s “Tale of the Happy Humfo” is a four-page description of the typical voodoo church. Sure he was born in England, but for basically a white boy from Lawng Guyland, Claremont’s been strangely pro-voodoo in his pieces for the magazine. “It’s not like the churches of its rival faiths — tall, often beautiful, sometimes horrendously functional structures that stand apart from the rest of the community, proclaiming to all who can see that this is the House of God; here is where He may be worshipped properly, nowhere else.” Horrendously functional? OK, gotcha Chris, organized religion stinks. But not sure that sacrificing chickens is the answer.

Another great but entirely misleading cover by Norem. -Thomas Flynn

Savage Tales 7
Cover by Boris Vallejo

“Stalker in a Savage Land”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema & Tony DeZuniga

“The Unspeakable Shrine”
Story by John Jakes & Doug Moench
Art by Steve Gan

“Creating the Fantasy Hero”
Text by Lin Carter

“The Dream-Temple of Kandu Ra”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema & The Crusty Bunkers

“A Few Words from the Editorial ‘We’”
Text by Gerry Conway

“Savage Mails”

Picking up from Savage Tales #6, “Stalker in a Savage Land” finds Ka-Zar and Zabu impaling the Tyrannosaurus rex on the splintered end of a fallen tree: along with Rhyla, they continue their quest to the Mountain of Darkness to find the cure for the deadly plague that grips the lost jungle. While scaling the peak, they are captured by grunting barbarians led by a brute called Ghort. Led to a sprawling glass city hidden in a huge cavern, Ka-Zar and crew are brought before a civilized prince and sentenced to death the next morning. Thrown into a cell, Ka-Zar finds other captives, outsiders led by his cousin Chauncewell who had come to the Savage Land to inform the jungle king of his inheritance back in London. At sunrise, Ka-Zar is forced to battle Ghort and emerges victorious. The prince commands the rest of his guards to attack: but suddenly, the Tyrannosaurus rex, still impaled but still alive and hungry for vengeance, bursts into the glass city. As the dinosaur rampages and the city crumbles, Ka-Zar and Rhyla fill gourds with life-water, the cure for the plague, and they all make their escape. Back at the outsider’s airplane, Ka-Zar tells Chauncewell to take the inheritance: the former Lord Plunder will stay where he belongs, the Savage Land.

"Stalker in a Savage Land"

While pretty decent, the conclusion of “The Damnation Plague” felt like a Conan story to me, though it just could be Big John’s art. The T rex was some tough sonofabitch, not only surviving with a tree stuck through the middle of his chest and out of his back, but climbing up a mountain and bringing down the whole glass city around him. Top-notch tracker as well. A glass city is a neat idea, but with the way Buscema and DeZuniga drew it, you really couldn’t tell that it was glass without Conway telling us so. Looked like the usual stone to me.

Next up is “The Unspeakable Shrine,” the Brak the Barbarian story originally scheduled for last issue. After leaving his northern tribe, Brak finds himself in Khurdisan, a city supposedly ripe for plunder and passion. But the golden-haired barbarian is disgusted by the city’s stench and squalor. Soon, Brak is beset by a gang of Darters, blind children with sharpened teeth and silver claws, who want to sacrifice him to the dark god Yob-Haggoth. The warrior is defiant, but the Darters shoot silvery electricity out of their fingers, hurling Brak into a courtyard, the door locking behind him. Inside is the beauteous witch Ariane: she incapacitates the barbarian in preparation for the ritual ceremony at dawn.

"The Unspeakable Shrine"

If “Stalker in a Savage Land” reminded me of Conan, this one is pure Robert E. Howard. Even the names — Khurdisan, Ariane, Yob-Haggoth — seem lifted. It’s based on the story by John Jakes, the character’s so-called creator. Moench tries his best to ape Roy Thomas’s prose style but there’s too much mumbo jumbo for my taste. Steve Gan’s art is fine and the Darters are quite creepy. I did think that Brak had a tail at the beginning until I realized that he was wearing fur shorts made from a lion’s backside. A bit odd.

Ka-Zar is back in “The Dream-Temple of Kandu Ra.” During an end-of-plague celebration, Ka-Zar is entranced by a raven-haired dancer named Myrain — but the woman is kidnapped by hooded cultists riding raptor-like dinosaurs. Along with Zabu, Ka-Zar tracks them to the temple of Kandu Ra, high on a mountain. When the jungle lord sees that Myrain is about to be sacrificed, he and his feline friend attack. But the high priest quickly summons Kandu Ra, a giant gila-like reptile out of the Triassic age. As Zabu engages the monster, Ka-Zar frees Myrain from her chains: unexpectedly, she swings them at her rescuer, runs towards Kandu Ra and is devoured. In a berserker rage, Ka-Zar leaps and drives a sword through the beast’s skull. The high priest informs the confused hero that Myrain was given drugs that made her want to be sacrificed. Ka-Zar hurls the cultist into a fire and storms away.

Nothing much here. Not bad, not terrible. A simple time filler but better than a crusty old reprint. Speaking of crusty, the Crusty Bunkers do a fine job: couldn’t find who they actually were but I could spot Dick Giordano if not Neal Adams in there.

In the first of the text pieces, the four-page “Creating the Fantasy Hero,” Lin Carter details the trials and tribulations involved in creating the character Jandar of Callisto. Carter freely acknowledges that Jandar is a derivation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars. To me at least, admitting that you basically ripped something off doesn’t get you off the hook. And lastly, in “A Few Words from the Editorial ‘We,’” Gerry Conway points out that he began his Marvel career with a few Ka-Zar stories for Astonishing Tales, and now, here he is both writing and editing Savage Tales. Um OK. That’s fine but did we really need an article about it? And if you’ve read Sean Howe’s “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story,” you’ll know that the company ran into trouble when the same person wrote and edited a series. In “Savage Mails,” Bill Barnard bemoans that fact that he subscribed to Savage Tales for Conan but now has to put up with Ka-Zar. I feels ya pain buddy. Great Boris cover by the way.  -Thomas Flynn

"Stalker in a Savage Land"

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 6
Cover by Bob Larkin

"The Way of the Jackal!"
Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by George Perez and Frank Springer

"A Bruce Lee Triple Feature"
Text by John David Warner

"Karate Foot Attack"
Text and Art by Frank McLaughlin

"How to Create a Dragon"
Text by Denny O'Neil
Art by Ron Wilson

"Lesson of the Locust!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Vosburg and Bob McLeod

Tony Isabella starts us off with a typically Isabellian editorial wherein we're subjected to the usual in-jokes ("Is there any truth to the rumor that Doug Moench and Angela Mao have never been seen together in the places they usually frequent?") and meanderings (Tony wants to tell us about the results of the poll he ran in #4 but he really can't) that pass as information in the TI universe. Tony loses his editorship (or "steps down") after only three issues and Don McGregor will take over next time out. I expect lots of analogies and poem quotes. Interesting that we're still seeing hard sells for the Iron Fist magazine that will never materialize. Doing a little research, I see the dumping of the mag from the schedule wasn't announced until the March 1975 books were out (according to the news section of The Comic Reader #113, Dec 1974). The 34-page story that was originally to be Iron Fist #1 was eventually redrawn by Rudy Nebres and published in Deadly Hands #10. More on that in a few "months." 

Just one example of some of the really ugly art in
"The Way of the Jackal"

Which brings us to this issue's entertainment. Not having learned a lesson from their problems over in the Deadly Hands album issue, The Sons of the Tiger enter yet another martial arts tournament and find that the supposed friendly exhibition is anything but. Bad guys trying to wipe out The Sons have infiltrated the show and are putting up quite the fight. This leads to all kinds of peril, such as high-wires soaked in gasoline, but our boys seem to find a way to vanquish the baddies and restore pride to the name of their fallen leader, Master Kee. "The Way of the Jackal" appears to be George Perez' debut at Marvel (aside from that silly two-page Deathlok strip in Astonishing #25 a few "months" ago) and it's not a pretty sight. The panels published look like unfinished work or, at best, a rush job. Having Frank Springer ink your work can't help either. Since George will have to deal with a carousel of inkers over his run on The Sons, we'll monitor the situation. A rare Marvel script by Denny O'Neil simply recycles past Sons plot lines. At about this time, O'Neil was making a name for himself over at DC scripting occasional Batman books but you could never tell this script was written by one of the legends of comic book writing. The Tigers enter a competition that's dirty and they have to fight their way out. Since we're stuck with these silly cats until #19, one hopes I'll have to come up with a different synopsis along the way. The most annoying thing about the group is that they always wait until the climax of the story to become the super-powered Sons of the Tiger (putting their arm bands together and chanting a limerick) when they could have ended the misery (for them and us) several pages earlier. Once The Sons become the Super Sons, all foes are vanquished pronto.

"C'mon people now...
smile on your brother..."
Still traveling through the City of the Angels, Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu runs afoul of a nasty gang labelled The Savages. The leader's moll takes a shine to Shang and that causes big trouble. The gang confront the Kung Fu Master in a dark alley but he proves to be too much for the thugs. During the battle, the moll is accidentally stabbed and becomes the latest fatality along Shang-Chi's trek through America the Beautiful. "Lesson of the Locust" relies on one too many cliches and, in the end, adds up to a big fat zero. Throwing in racial slurs to up the ante and create an even more loathsome villain was like free hot dog day at the fair to these funny book writers. Some of them knew how to manipulate it to further a story and others (as in this case) just used it for shock value. How many times have we seen the innocent become the fatality in these gang war dramas? And, really, Doug, why not just call it "Lesson of the Grasshopper"? The art is really bad, with Shang looking almost middle-aged and paunchy at times and the gang members blending together in blandness. A step down from the usual Shang-Chi fare. -Peter Enfantino

Dracula Lives 9
Cover by Luis Dominguez

"The Lady Who Collected Dracula"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Frank Robbins and Frank Springer

"Scarlet in Glory!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Gulacy and Mike Esposito

"The Scars of Dracula"
Review by Gerry Boudreau

"A Night in the Unlife!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Alfredo Alcala

"Twice Dies the Vampire!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Sonny Trinidad

I'm sure it was the dreaded deadline doom that kept a chapter of Thomas and Giordano's Dracula adaptation out of this issue but the prestige is sorely missed. Instead we get four Drac tales of varying quality.

Frank Robbins does Dracula his way

"Scarlet in Glory!"
"The Lady Who Collected Dracula" is a sequel to last issue's "Last Walk on the Night Side." which
ended with beat cop Lou Garver putting the stake to his recently-vampirized wife and swearing vengeance on Dracula. Lou's C.O. first grills the harried man, after cops find him in a compromised position with his wife's corpse, and then tells Garver to go home and sleep it off. Kind of a "Why, you knucklehead, if you weren't such a good cop I'd run you in for first degree murder!" All that's missing is a tousle of Lou's hair and a pat on the rump. Meanwhile, the guy who stole all the jewels and antiques out of Drac's castle is now auctioning them off and he's got the vampire's #1 fan shelling out the big bucks for anything and everything the thief can get his hands on. Lou takes an interest in the buyer at the same time Drac does, but for different reasons. The Count wants to use the woman to get to the thief and Lou wants to use her to get to Drac. No one really gets what they want in the end (including the reader). Garver goes from lead role to support act in the sequel and Doug never really delves into why this woman wants to collect all the Dracula memorabilia in the world (other than he's hot). Criticizing Frank Robbins' artwork is like pulling wings off butterflies. I got tired of searching my thesaurus for new ways to say "lousy" when I was covering the 1970s Robbins' Batman over at our other blog a couple years ago. Let's just say that only a few people out there would defend the guy's artwork and I ain't one of them. Let's just say there is not one redeeming feature to Robbins' work. Nothing. Let's just say that Dracula, who has retained a semblance of familiarity throughout the dozens of artists who've drawn him for Marvel, looks like nothing more than a skinny guy with fangs and rubbery hands. Moench, thankfully, takes a bit of time off from reminding us he's an artiste and refrains from showering us with flowery analogies and dopey hippy dialogue. Despite the holes in the plot, it's not a bad script.

"Twice Dies the Vampire!"

"Scarlet in Glory" finds The Count descending upon a village he's been draining dry for years, only to find another vampire has moved into the neighborhood. When he tracks his nemesis to a nearby castle, he discovers that it's actually the husband of one of Dracula's victims who's been posing as a creature of the night to obtain blood for his cursed wife. When the two men come to a Mexican standoff, the husband kills the vampiress and dies of a heart attack. Dracula spends the entirety of the story grumbling about competing with another vampire but, inexplicably, attempts to save the woman from her own husband.

"A Night in the Unlife"
The final two Drac tales are much better. The vampire weaves himself through several lives in a small town, just wanting to find someone to eat and facing obstacles at every turn. Gerry Conway's script for "A Night in the Unlife!" is both funny and eerie and Alfredo "The Master" Alcala contributes gorgeous visuals. The young lady who coaxes her boyfriend into robbing a bank and then becomes food for Dracula is perfectly rendered, cold as a fish and possessing dead eyes long before Drac munches on her. A shadowy figure is hounding Dracula and, in one night, "Twice Dies the Vampire!" In a not-so-shocking finale, the mysterious stranger is revealed to be death himself, angry that Drac is stealing business. Sonny Trinidad's art is beginning to grow on me.

Rounding out the issue is Gerry Boudreau's take on Scars of Dracula, the fifth Hammer-Lee entry. Gerry hates it. I'd have to agree that, aside from its fiery finale, this one was a crashing bore and signaled the decline in the series. -Peter Enfantino

The Haunt of Horror 4
Cover by Bob Larkin

"This Side of Hell"
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by Enrique Romero

"Fright Pattern!"
Story by Jack Younger (Bhob Stewart)
Art by Syd Shores and Wayne Howard

"Doorway to Dark Destiny"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Pat Broderick and The Crusty Bunkers

Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Yong Montano

"To Worship the Damned"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Sonny Trinidad

The daughter of Satan becomes the target of The Three (which used to be The Four before she dispatched one of them) and finds herself locked out of hell. I won't even try to fool you into believing I know what the hell was going on in this story (and I read it twice to try to make heads or tails) but it's not all my fault. I won't even lay all the blame at Tony Isabella's typewriter either as poor Tony (who inherited the series, but not the future plot notes, from Gerry Conway) is seemingly as lost as I am despite the generous flashback that opens "This Side of Hell." There's no real purpose or goal for Satana; it's all a charade to get her to pose seductively. I'm having a hard time differentiating between Satana and Lilith, Daughter of Dracula (it doesn't help that a couple of Satana's appearances were in the early issues of Vampire Tales). The artist credited is Enrique Romero but it sure looks like Esteban Maroto to me. This is one huge stinkin' ball of confusion. There's also an 11-page text story ("Doorway to Dark Destiny") starring Satana this issue.

Is it Maroto? Nope!

Flight attendant Mary Jane has been having horrendous dreams about an upcoming flight and asks to be grounded. The job works out well, a dreamy pilot asks her to marry him, and the sun shines all the time. What could go wrong? Waiting for her beau's flight to land, MJ daydreams about her exciting new life, then Ted's plane crashes into the terminal and they're both killed. The abrupt ending, for once, works in favor of "Fright Pattern." Bhob Stewart is one of those legends who broke out of fandom and became a professional with tons of A1 jobs on his resume. One of the earliest historians of EC Comics, Bhob went on to become editor of Castle of Frankenstein, contribute to Squa Tront, and write a fabulous book on Wally Wood (criminally, out of print). His writings on EC and its artists are entertaining and enthralling.

"Fright Pattern"

Nuclear war has wiped out most of the United States but Alaskan radar man Craig MacIntosh never surrenders his post until he's relieved five years later by his C.O. Leaving the base and returning home to the wreckage of Washington, something snaps inside Craig and he returns to Alaska to mete out a bit of payback to the General. Post-apocalyptic thrillers were pretty rare for the Marvel B&Ws and "Deathwatch" is a decent read with a nasty and violent kick in its rear.


Gabriel, Demon-Hunter returns in "To Worship the Damned." This time out, Gabriel and Desadia must travel to England to save a devil-worshiper named Chesterton who's become possessed by his idol, Satan himself. Along the way, they're attacked by demons who spout PG-rated profanities, whimper like little children, and are cursed to mouth dialogue like "Your God stinks! Your God is vile! Your God will rot in the sewers of hell!" As with most of the B&W series, the overall feeling here with Gabriel is that there is no direction, no goal, and no one steering the ship. It's just a checklist of scenes that were done better in The Exorcist.

Editor Tony Isabella contributes another entertaining editorial (much more so than the Satana story he assigned himself to do), wherein he poses with half-nekkid fangirls dressed as Satana and threatens us with a fumetti starring the daughter of Satan in the next issue. Thankfully, Isabella was shown the door before that heinous act could be committed.
-Peter Enfantino

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  1. Even though I've never read it, there are two comments about the TALES OF THE ZOMBIE issue I really like.
    First, there's the "Must have had a bone to pick with swingers" remark. That's because countless people - including countless people you wouldn't really suspect - can be very touchy about that subject. Believe it or not, as recently as five days ago, I heard the actual word "swinger" used in a scathing way!
    Also (and this leads to a much darker subject), it isn't much of a leap for some people from "swinger" to stereotyped hippie, and hardly any leap at all from that to the whole overworked Charles Manson idea. So it doesn't surprise me that these fictional characters go from having some harmless sexual hijinks at a party to setting up a set of murders! I'm not saying this particular writer muddled those three things, but so many people DO.

    And the facetious remark, "Gotcha - organized religion stinks."
    It might have been less true in ' 74, butt now more than ever, organized religion gets the blame for nearly EVERYTHING that goes wrong, no matter how unconnected the two things might be. I don't actually belong to one, but that whole way of thinking about it gets really unimaginative.

  2. Gosh, I'm blushing. Thanks for the kind words. I haven't started writing about it yet, but it looks like some readers take Gerber to task for the whole "killer swingers" thing in the letter pages for Tales of the Zombie #10, the last issue of the series.