By Professor Joe Tura
Marvel Preview was yet another black-and-white mag that hit the spinner rack/newsstand in 1975, promising "ALL NEW Illustrated Stories" and an eerie first cover by none other than Neal Adams. The usual editorial explaining what the heck this is all about is non-existent, but each issue of the what ended up being 24 seemed to feature a sci-fi story, Marvel hero or sword-and-sorcery character, until the winter of 1980, when the title changed to Bizarre Adventures (for some bizarre reason) and lasted another 10 issues. Issue #1 blasts off with two otherworldly tales and long articles on Erich von Däniken, the controversial Swiss author of Chariots of the Gods? among other books that explored extraterrestrials.
Our first story is "Man-Gods From Beyond the Stars", by the increasingly-prolific Doug Moench and Alex Nino (another one of Marvel's Filipino artist corps, also known for his work on the b&w mags), which posits whether or not "our planet was visited in eons past, by aliens from outer space" and if this was "one way in might have happened". And just reading the first page, I know I'm in for a long night, as there are about 5,000 words to try and get through. (Sigh…) Traveling on the Starcraft Nexus, Recorder Heralx, Commander Raaman and aide Norg are among the crew who visit an oxygen-rich planet whose primitive inhabitants think they are gods from the sun. An interlude cuts to Peru in January 1975, and a pair of archeologists learn of a Peruvian legend similar to what we just witnessed. The shaman of the tribe is skeptical, thinking the visitors have come for their food, but the chief wins out and the visitors fly off to help find a more fertile region, a scene discovered on a cave painting in 1975 by the two explorers.
Examining the land with chest-lights, the visitors are found by the tribe, who offer them a sacrifice, but are terrified when Norg shines the light on them. But Raaman orders his away, earning the gratitude of the tribe, which is further mesmerized when a sabretooth attacks Raaman but can't penetrate his shield. The beast is enraged and attacks the tribe! A saddened Heralx and the visitors are not allowed to interfere—until Raaman shoots the creature with his blaster, saving a woman whom he orders taken to the shuttlecraft, against the protests of aide Norg. They take her to the Surgery Chamber, where she's probed, but soon released by Raaman, who accompanies her off the ship and makes love to her. The shaman of the tribe is chucked out, goes to "exorcise" the shuttlecraft and is told the truth, that the visitors are not gods, just men sent to observe their world, and he's given a device that his ancestors may understand one day (and is discovered in 1975 by the archeologists). Meanwhile, power-hungry Norg demands at gunpoint that he be allowed to walk among the primitives, where he shows off his "god-like" power, demands women and food, and slays the returning shaman with a blaster—which in turn causes the tribe to kill Norg! Finally, Raaman tells a sympathetic Heralx that the woman is with child.
Man, that's a long summary, but that's a long tale that was told. Some fabulously drawn panels by Nino (especially page 31) and an ambitious story that starts off slow, picks up a little steam and threatens to go into full cliché mode. It's generally OK, holds the interest for sure thanks to the interesting artwork, but it's hard to root for anyone, even the supposedly heroic Commander who really goes against the directive, interfering and seducing the tribeswoman. I wonder how he would have made out on the Enterprise…
Next up is a short bio of Erich von Däniken, followed by Ed Summer's "book-length bonus section" exploring the "Theory of Extraterrestrialism" from Chariots of the Gods? and man, was I bored. Then Summer presents a "handy review" of related books in case you need to either tickle your fancy or cure your insomnia. (Sorry, this stuff is not in my wheelhouse.)
Our second tale, "Good Lord!", asks the question "what will happen when man himself takes another giant step into the black void, to walk as a god among the stars?" Marv Wolfman teams with Dave Cockrum and the Crusty Bunkers for this one, which also starts with a super-long caption that has me reaching for a cup of tea.
Turns out it's an Outer Limits-esque tale of five humans traveling the galaxy led by Dr. Archer Wilson, assistant Joan Carlin, pilot Bob King, navigator Jeff Chambers and co-pilot Colin Greene. They land on Altair IV and are attacked by a huge alien creature that kills and eats Greene and is finally brought down by a quartet of blasters and they fly away. Wilson is leading this expedition in search of proving the ancient concept of a supreme being, a god who created the universe. Landing on another planet, one that seems "too perfect", Joan is instantly nabbed by a gross-looking flying sting ray, that's killed by Bob, even though Dr. Wilson is hesitant due to "divine right of murder". Spotting a city, the group starts rafting towards it when Jeff is grabbed by a giant tentacle creature and ripped in half (literally!). They swim across to the gorgeous city and as they enter the palace, Joan is grabbed by a mutated jellyfish and quickly eaten (ewwwww…), and an angry Bob destroys the creature. Wilson and King enter a giant hall filled with many statues of gods, some familiar: Ra, Odin, Buddha, Moses, Jesus. Suddenly, a creature slithers from the shadows and is killed by Bob. Then, a black liquid oozes from it, which is the embodiment of death! It destroys Wilson's hand then starts to destroy the universe—they've killed God…
Wow, that was deep. And so freakin' depressing. Marv really goes for it, doesn't he, crafting a morality tale that's meant to leave you thinking. But along the way, we're left mostly with the cool artwork to be honest. Cockrum draws some super slimy creatures straight from Where Monsters Dwell, and some gruesome, cartoonishly gory deaths that would have Prof. Gilbert jumping up and down in excitement. A decent end to a very long mag that had me sympathizing with Prof. Tom and Dean Pete for their coverage of the endless (pun intended) monster and vampire mags. Now excuse me, as I look out the window to make sure no spaceships are landing in the courtyard…. – Joe Tura