Wednesday, February 4, 2015

July 1975 Part Two: Paul Gulacy Resurrects Bruce Lee! Professor Mark Barsotti Lets His Voice Be Heard!

Incredible Hulk 189
"None Are So Blind...!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Herb Trimpe and Joe Staton
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Herb Trimpe

The Hulk digs his way out of a mountain of snow in Russia after surviving his last adventure (which ended in an exploding castle). As he walks through the countryside, the Hulk comes across a young girl named Katrina. Surprised that she is not afraid of him, the Hulkster learns that the girl is blind. When her uncle finds her talking to the Hulk, he shoots him, but Katrina proclaims the Hulk to be her friend so the monster is taken to their village to stay with them. As the uncle shows the Hulk the room where he will be staying, he explains to the Hulk that the village is being ransacked by mysterious creatures. He also shows the Hulk a medicine he's been working on that will cure Katrina of her blindness. That night, the village is once again attacked and we discover the creatures are the Mole Man's minions, the Moloids.  When the Hulk shows up, the Moloids flee, and the Green Goliath tracks them down to an underground cave. Once inside, the Hulk is pounced upon by the  Moloids and knocked out with gas. When he awakens, the Hulk is encased in iron. The Mole Man reveals himself and boasts how his slaves have recovered the serum that the Uncle was working on, so that he can cure his own blindness. Robbing Katrina of the chance to restore her sight is too much for the Hulk to take. In a rage he breaks out of his confines and takes back the medicine. The Mole Man and his crew are unable to stop the raging monster and the Hulk destroys the cave before escaping. After he turns the medicine back over to the uncle, Katrina's blindness is cured. The Hulk is fearful that the girl would be afraid of him once she saw how he really looked but, once her sight is restored, Katrina sees the Hulk as a handsome man. -Tom McMillion

Matthew Bradley: With only four issues to go, the Wein/Trimpe administration has seen some pretty drastic highs and lows, yet I don’t hesitate to rank this poignant, nigh-perfect story among the former, its classic cover another staple of Mead school supplies.  The venerable blind-person-oblivious-to-a-monstrous-appearance routine (see, for example, Bride of Frankenstein or, for that matter, Mary Shelley’s original novel) is effective in the right hands, and I think Len does very well with it.  I can’t recall whether or not having the Hulk narrate the entire issue—which could be a risky choice—is unprecedented, but again, it’s a successful device here, while a somewhat hinky Mole Man only marginally reduces Staton’s solid batting average on Greenskin.

Scott McIntyre: The cover alone is a classic to me because I had a Marvel Comics Trading card with it printed on the front. The story inside is just as deserving of the “classic” status. It’s a touching story of the Hulk’s gentle relationship with a little blind girl which, surprisingly, doesn’t end in tragedy. I can forgive the usual “Hulk is happy but doesn’t change into Bruce Banner” trope because the story is so well done. The fact that Katrina sees the Hulk, not as he is physically, but how she sees him in her heart, is lovely. That he doesn’t stay is a little bit of a letdown, because I can’t picture him leaving if he’s happily accepted there. However, it’s all good. Very well done. 

The Man-Thing 19
“The Scavenger of Atlanta”
Story by Steve Gerber 
Art Jim Mooney and Frank Springer
Colors by Don Warfield
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

With Carol Selby in tow, Richard Rory drives Man-Thing out of Citrusville, planning to drop the creature off in the Everglades. But the monster’s bath in the chemical vat has changed his physiology: he has now become a self-contained ecosystem and no longer needs to draw strength from the swamp so it refuses to exit the vehicle. Rory continues on and he and Carol check into a motel, leaving Man-Thing locked in the van outside. Drawn by the emotions of Colleen Sanders, an unhappy woman abandoning her husband and child, the mossy monster escapes and shambles through the suburbs of Atlanta, seeking her out. When the once-man finds Sanders, she is driving away from her home — but a costumed creep named the Scavenger swoops down, rips off the roof of her VW and applies a life-sucking kiss. Alerted by the ruckus, some of Sanders' neighbors appear: the Scavenger flies off before he is finished and Man-Thing escapes. The Scavenger finds another victim, a coffee shop waitress, and his kiss turns her into a pile of bones. At the motel, Carol informs Richard that she is only 17-years-old, meaning he can be convicted for kidnapping a minor and taking her over a state line. The Man-Thing returns to the motel, frightening the clerk and other residents but Rory calms his freakish friend down. The Scavenger bursts through the front window and tosses the swamp monster to the ground. Blaming his mother, teachers and drill instructor for his predicament, the insane intruder threatens to reveal the “terrible ogre” behind his mask. But after he removes it, his face is beautiful. The Scavenger and Man-Thing face off once again — when he starts to feel fear, the villain’s handsome visage is forever scarred by the monster’s burning hands. -Thomas Flynn

Tom Flynn: I hope nobody minds, but my synopsis doesn’t exactly follow Gerber’s plot: he jumps around a bit using flashbacks. So like a hack studio editor ruining Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, I put things in chronological order. Steve’s at it once again as the Scavenger raves on that society's done him wrong. Exactly how we are not sure at this point but next issue promises “the Scavenger’s macabre secret.” I’m no Deep South lawyer, but can Rory really be convicted of kidnapping since Carol left with him willingly? She seems to come on to him at one point which is kinda creepy. She’s either a dimbulb or serious trouble in the making, guess we shall see. Knowing Gerber, she’ll turn out to be the reincarnation of Susan B. Anthony who has returned to smite all who persecute women. “A vote for all, a sound thrashing for many!” Are our minds supposed to be blown now that Manny is a “self-contained ecosystem” and no longer needs the swamp? Is this something that continues to this day? Am I sure I really care? Someone named Anthony Pezzella is credited for designing the Scavenger’s mediocre costume on the splash page — some vague memory makes me think he was a contest winner or something.

Chris Blake: Steve G never ceases to find ways to change things around for this title. We haven’t had any sort of costumed villain in so long that it comes off as a novelty – it helps that he has a mystery-themed, and inexplicable, power. Manny had been becoming somewhat of a bit-player in his own mag for awhile – now, in the past few issues, he’s fittingly returned to center stage. I will quibble that there is no rational explanation for the Scavenger’s successful discovery of the Man-Thing indoors, while he’s flying overhead – a minor complaint.

I’ve never been a big fan of Springer’s inks, but having seen some of his work on the Giant-Sizer’s, I opined that, if he were able to maintain some of that standard all the time, he would be well-suited as the inker on the monthly mag as well. Springer manages to validate my expectation here; although the art gets murky at times, I liked it overall. The depiction of Manny is particularly effective, as he looks bizarre, without being comical. Mooney’s occasional shortcomings on atmosphere are apparent here, as the last four pages of the story (all indoors, in the motel) are much too bright. I understand that there would be lights on, but still – find a way to tone it down. Missed opportunity: when the Scavenger absorbs the donut-shop keeper, down to her bones, the skeleton that hits the floor has a skull that reminds me of Ghost Rider. If Mooney had left the jaw slack, and widened the eye-sockets a bit, the skeleton instead might’ve conveyed some of the victim’s shock; nice, huh?

Peter Enfantino: In a wide-ranging interview that appeared in The Comic Reader #129 (April 1976), and was conducted by Richard Burton, Marv Wolfman revealed that Man-Thing #19 was actually rejected by the Comics Code but that Marvel "could not get the Code stamp off the cover in time." Marv also said he personally found #19 "revolting."

Mark Barsotti: Dean Peter's info-bit about Marv Wolfman's Comic Reader interview intrigues. Why did the Comics Code give this ish the thumbs down: Rick Rory unknowingly crossing state lines with run away jailbait? Maybe but, more interestingly, what did Marv find "revolting" about a story I found boring.
Odd, since an attractive girl (having just outed herself as 17), wearing only a men's dress shirt on a motel bed in a '75 Marvel mag, should be riveting, even before she taunts Rick with, "I wish you wouldn't stare at me...without clothes." Ditto a baddie whose soul-kiss literally sucks the flesh (and everything else) off his victims' bones. And under his generic (if perhaps contest award winning, per Prof Tom) skivvies, the Scavenger is creepy Steve Rogers handsome, at least until a last page burning at Manny's touch.

Matthew: It seems strange to say this about a Gerber creation, but the Scavenger doesn’t seem all that interesting, although the revelation of his “macabre secret,” promised for next issue, may kick him up a notch. His costume design, credited to Anthony Pezzella (as was the creation of the Death-Stalker, for those of you with good memories), certainly doesn’t inspire Mooney to new heights, especially with the dreaded Frank Springer’s inks dragging him down. Similarly, I feel like we’ve seen the “soul-sucking monster” routine way too many times, even if Steve does try for a little variety with his Adonis-like appearance; meanwhile, he’s evidently determined to put poor Rory through the wringer, to the point where his self-proclaimed bad luck is confirmed.

Mark: All this should be right in Gerber's wheelhouse, but the "shocking" moments have no punch, surrounded as they are by the disconnected Scenes From a Marriage opening, Manny's new "self-contained ecosystem" and refusal to be ditched by buddy Rick, and Steve's latest oddball but utterly predictable villain.

It's paint-by-number provocation, somehow far less than the sum of its parts. 

Marvel Team-Up 35
The Human Torch and Doctor Strange in
"Blood Church!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane and Al Milgrom

Enlisted by Dr. Strange to help search for Spidey, who vanished with Val after the Meteor Man’s defeat, the Torch investigates Fester’s old apartment in Harlem, where he is lured into a trap by a child.  At the church where Val is about to be sacrificed, Johnny briefly frees himself and is recaptured while Strange, trying to see Fester in prison, senses a spectre of evil on the astral plane, from which he liberates Val.  She disappears, but her return to our reality disrupts Jeremiah’s spell as Johnny again escapes and uses his flame to break the hypnotic trance over the children; Strange arrives, consigns Jeremiaha mutant “proto-path” who uses others’ mental energies—to the Hell where he tried to sacrifice Val, and lets his innocent victims depart. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Not that I ever had particularly high hopes for this poor patchwork of a “trilogy,” but I certainly didn’t expect Conway to bollix its conclusion so thoroughly, and to make matters worse, Vinnie’s finished art limits the ability of Sal’s layouts to offer much assistance.  Memo to Gerry:  Dude, you had three whole issues in which to make Jeremiah—here in his merciful swan song—more interesting than his generic, faintly ridiculous appearance, yet left us largely unsatisfied regarding his origin, nature, goals, etc., and unfortunately not in a Wolverinesque way that left us wanting to know more.  Coinciding with the final first-run issue of Giant-Size Spider-Man, this duly marks the unlamented end of the Human Torch’s regular rotation as his quarterly substitute.

Addendum:  This issue contains the legendary letter in which future Professor Barsotti of Kiowa, Colorado perplexes the Bullpen by alluding to his vast correspondence on behalf of G.C.A.J.T.A.

Scott: One of my least favorite characters in the Marvel Universe at this juncture is Johnny Storm. Partnering him with the Master of the Mystic Politeness against a blah villain doesn’t do much for me. The art is pretty good and the villain’s final fate is shockingly cold for this title, but really, this is a Spider-Man book. The sooner he takes over, the better it will be. “Better” being a generous word, since MTU was never all that fascinating.

Joe: First question: Why is the lame-o Jeremiah bald on the cover? I guess Gil Kane drew so many covers in 1975 he was allowed one little mistake...More questions: How exactly did Clea help remind Dr. Strange of his "responsibility as a Master of the Mystic Arts"? Must have been the va-va-voom shirt with no buttons she was wearing...Wouldn't the police be quite a bit suspicious of Doc's "strange" appearance and quick exit at the prison? Maybe that's a good sign for the superhero union, I don't know. Is it kooky that the ending reminds me of "Spider-Man: From Beyond the Grave" and how Doc dismissed Kingpin in the same kinda way? How happy am I that, even though I like him, Torch won't steal any more stories from my beloved Spidey? Overall, an OK story and decent art that I'll blame the problems for on the inker (of course). Gee, Frankenstein is next, I'm sure our Dean is thrilled!

Mark: Since esteemed Professor Matthew kindly mentions my letter printed in this ish (for new students, the G.C.A.J.T.A was my doomed attempt to influence Marvel with a worldwide, albeit fictive, protest movement), I decided to dip into the vaults for this month's Team-Up.

I loved the book as a bright-eyed Merry Marcher (particularly at the beginning, when it was all Spidey & the Torch), but have shied away from adding it to my class load because, even read in the toasty campfire glow of nostalgia, I didn't expect the book to hold up well, for reasons delineated in the other letters page missive. 

A sharp-eyed if unnamed fan from Rockville, Maryland calls out Conway & crew for: (1) ignoring the characters' private lives; (2) our titular heroes generally "simply bump into each other on the street;" and (3) "hollow" Z-grade baddies, cranked out sausage-style. And MTU #35 is prima facie evidence of all charges. 

There's nary a word about concurrent events in the FF or Doc Strange. Count one: guilty.

Okay, Matchhead and the Doc meet in the sky. Strange tells Johnny that the Meteor Man's apartment is in Harlem. Next panel, and with no further info, Johnny's crawling through MM's window. There's a difference between storytelling shorthand and outright laziness. Count two: guilty.

Portly & goateed Jeremiah shouldn't be allowed in the same zip code as spandex; he makes one wish Vince Colletta was even lazier. A self-styled prophet – in reality a mutant "proto-path" – Jer is dispatched to "hell" by the Doc (who appears to pop up out of a cardboard box) with a simple wave of his hand. And Kid Conway churned out three issues on this mook?

Count three: Ahhh, is it too late to cop a plea?

I like big butts and I can not lie. You other brothers can't deny.

Master of Kung Fu 30
"A Gulf of Lions"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Gulacy and Dan Adkins
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane

Shang-Chi’s attempt to enter the Velcro villa is impeded by the imposing figure of Razor-Fist.  S-C nimbly flips past him and into the heroin dealer’s stronghold.  As they square off, S-C arrests the progress of Razor-Fist’s left-hand blade and snaps it into pieces.  S-C then dupes Razor-Fist into running his right-blade into a statue – as he is trapped in place, S-C kicks the back of his head into the statue’s head, rendering Razor-Fist unconscious.  Meanwhile – Velcro’s security force has captured Reston and Black Jack.  Velcro promises to throw them both to his ravenous panthers, but he offers to have them shot first (to spare them from being eaten alive) if they will indulge his request for information about the identity of their operation-runner.  S-C arrives, and bluffs Velcro into releasing his comrades with the threat of a bomb enclosed in his fist.  Velcro obliges willingly, secure in the knowledge that electric eyes throughout the villa will locate the fleeing invaders.  Velcro signals a floor panel to drop the three would-be escapees into the panther pit.  S-C buys time for all three to escape the predators, but another trap door plummets S-C, Tarr, and Reston to an even deeper section of the compound, where they find material for a nuclear weapons arsenal! -Chris Blake

Chris: Doug and Paul take this title into Full Bond mode, as the young man of philosophy and passivism fades into the background.  Even Shang-Chi’s reflective commentary, which ordinarily has afforded us insight to his interpretation of events, serves here only as a means to provide description of S-C’s battle with Razor-First, and his later efforts to escape from the villa – and frankly, the illustrations already tell us plainly enough what’s happening – so that the captions don’t complement the action in the manner that they used to.  I was thinking about this change in the character, and I wondered whether Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin looked back at this title with any regrets for having let go of their vision for Shang-Chi.  But, I guess it was all part of the tricky business of work-for-hire, right?  They had to have known that the character wouldn’t necessarily continue the same way once other people would be creating and executing his adventures.  Still …

Chris: Gulacy already has been applying Steranko-esque approaches to the art for this title, and the trend continues as we delve deeper into secret-agent-man territory, notably both in small touches like Velcro’s electric-eye detection system (p 23), and for big moments like the massive underground base (p 31 – I wonder whether Albert Broccoli clued-in the production designers for The Spy Who Loved Me to MoKF -?).  At the same time, Shang-Chi is adopting more of the classic look that we associate with Gulacy’s work on this title, particularly in moments like p 6, last panel (far above), and p 23, pnl 5 (above); I also highly dug the mostly wordless conclusion to his fight with Razor-Fist on p 16.  Lastly, high marks once again to Dan Adkins, who is able to deliver at least 80% of the same effect that Gulacy achieved with his self-inked art in our previous issue; if Gulacy doesn’t have time to self-ink, at least Adkins is able to finish the job consistently well.

Mark: Another heaping helping of Paul Gulacy's (+ Dan Adkins' inks) eye candy deluxe, with not just every page but almost every freakin' panel a four color feast. If Steranko oft treated comics as poster art, the maturing Gulacy is more cinematic: less Kirby, more Citizen Kanebe it tricky camera angles in four small chase scene panels (P. 14), or dramatic close-ups of the aftermath of Shang taking down Razor-Fist (left). And, consciously or not, our hero now looks a lot like Bruce Lee – dig page #22  (above)– and who's complaining?

Doug Moench rises to his partner's challenge, not only with the Bondian adventure - complete with last page splash revealing the heroin kingpin has a private army in a vast cavern beneath his fortress, perhaps even "nuclear lions!!" – but with rich characterization: formal and foppish baddie Carlton Velcro, Clive Reston's wise-cracking cool under pressure, Sir Denis willing to "bloody well act counter to the Queen herself!" to save his team. Oh, don't forget the double amputee assassin and a pack of hungry black panthers! Highest marks. This one's a classic.

The Mighty Thor 237
"Ulik Unchained"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane, John Romita, and Al Milgrom

Don Blake and Jane Foster enjoy some lunch together, but soon Thor is called upon to stop a robbery. Unknown to him, his old foe Ulik watches, then returns to his army of trolls under the ground, sealing up the entrance. Odin, still under self-imposed amnesia as Orrin, cotemplates what to do with the power he possesses. That night the troll army strikes, breaking through to the surface. Thor engages his nemesis in battle, while a band of trolls grab Jane Foster. The result: Thor is bound to obey... -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: Like the Absorbing Man last month, you can't go too wrong with Ulik. There's nothing really original here, but I like the Earth-drill that seals up the ground after the trolls. Hercules, fittingly, is the one who saves the folks from the dislodged Ferris wheel. Don and Jane's reunion is tamer than you'd think after being apart for so long. It won't be for long though, as she's taken hostage by the trolls.

Scott: For some reason, the only person even vaguely concerned that Sif gave up her identity to save Jane is Hercules. Thor is happily macking on the revived former ex-girlfriend and Jane doesn’t seem to give it a thought. The usual “humor” of a cabbie making an unfunny wisecrack as Ulik and Thor smash and crumple the car he is actually sitting in pulls whatever excitement out of the encounter for me. However, the full page panel of Hercules catching the Ferris wheel is well worth the eye-rolling surrounding it. As interesting as Odin’s story is, those interludes are frustratingly brief. I’d rather focus on that than another snore-worthy “Thor vs Trolls epic.” Let’s get on with it already.  

Matthew: When Jane (who looks like she forgot to take off her shower cap) tells Don, “If you’re going to be jealous—be jealous of Thor,” it got me thinking.  She seems to love Don and Thor, who are essentially different personalities despite sharing the same body, interchangeably, yet what if she loved only one of them and couldn’t stand the other?  I’m sure there’s some super-hero precedent I’m too tired to think of right now, but meanwhile, I’ll always welcome a return appearance by Ulik, especially when he and his troll buddies are so lovingly rendered by my favorite art team, and that full-pager will help me overlook the coincidence that the Ferris wheel just happens to break while Hercules and, improbably, the Vizier check out Coney Island.

The Tomb of Dracula 34
"Showdown of Blood!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

On the snowy streets of London, Inspector Chelm prepares to shoot Dracula, using a gun with a specially manufactured silver bullet. Dracula is meeting one of his members from Parliament who is giving him some secret documents. Already aware of Chelm's presence, Drac uses his minion as a shield when the Inspector fires upon him. Casting his dead lackey aside, Drac attacks Chelm, but the Inspector is saved when his fellow policemen arrive and Drac turns into mist to escape. The documents reveal what Dracula has thought all along: that Dr. Sun has been draining his powers. A woman named Daphne Wilkinson has been having trouble running her own fashion business. A feminist who hates and blames men for her failures, Wilkinson receives an unexpected surprise when a near-death Dracula crashes through her window. When the Count begs her for blood, Miss Wilkinson agrees under the condition that he helps her. Seeking revenge against a banker who threatened to shut her struggling fashion business down, Wilkinson lures him to her home under the pretense of working out a payment plan. Once the poor banker arrives at her home, Dracula feasts on him. Elsewhere, Frank Drake is saved from a horde of vampires by Brother Voodoo. In India, Taj writes Rachel Van Helsing to tell her that he is staying there with his wife and will no longer be joining the vampire-hunting crew. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: This issue was moving along fine until the introduction of the Miss Wilkinson character. Her overly dramatic, feminist personality might have played out more realistically in the 1970's, but now it just seems a little too over the top. This new subplot involving Wilkinson doesn't ruin the book, but I'm hoping that this doesn't continue into some long, four issue arc. Bring on Dr. Sun!

Scott: Talky, but a lot more interesting than I expected it to be, once Brother Voodoo showed up. Thankfully, he and Frank Drake’s appearance together was short and not the focus of the story. Taj’s “farewell” was bittersweet because you really get the feeling his lady is guilting him to stay. And I really can’t forget how he whaled on her some issues back. It’s always fun to see Dracula at a disadvantage, but the feminist plot is already taxing my tolerance. There are a lot of small threads here, most of them interesting, but I don’t feel a strong enough through-line connecting them all yet. However, I have faith. I just cringe at bringing in Brother Voodoo and the laughable “zuvembies” (below left)

Chris: We’re not given any explanation as to why Drac crashes thru Daphne’s window, desperately demanding blood.  London has been teeming with easy-picking victims up to now, hasn’t it?  Drac disappears as mist to escape Chelm’s officers (p 11), and then isn’t seen again until he’s sprawled on the floor, gasping (p 23).  If Marv meant to connect these two events, or if this has something to do with Dr Sun possibly sapping Drac’s powers, then Marv neglected to clue us in.  

Daphne will introduce a new twist for the next few issues, as she feels she is in an equal partnership, or possibly even that she might have the upper hand in her ghastly arrangement with Drac.  I can’t recall how it plays out, but I suspect that it will be nasty (say that last word again, but stretch out the vowel sounds for full effect).
This issue has more to do with comings and goings of various characters who all are involved in the storyline; since we don’t get much time with Drac himself, there aren’t as many opportunities for a chilling view of his sinister face.  So, for highlights, I’ll go with vacant-minded people, both the dead-eyed but purposeful zombies (p2, 1st panel), and the weirdly-lit, nobody-home look of Drac’s possessed Parliamentarian (p 7).
My best guess is that Brother Voodoo’s guest appearance here will be concluded in an issue of Tales of the Zombie that will run 4-6 months from now (okay, it’s a needless dig, but I couldn’t help myself).

Mark: Hey, we finally get a Colan/Palmer cover, although it's nothing special, highlighting the intrepid Inspector Chelm. Then a slow opening, with Least Interesting Man in the World Frank Drake tossed off a cliff by "zuvembies" before being possessed by stepped-from-a-fogbank Brother Voodoo for some gravity defying gymnastics, instead of the hoped for splat!

The Count foils the pistol-packin' Chelm, even as we learn he's being stalked by a crazed, bewhiskered vamp (the killer of Blade's mom?) from the shadows. Rachel returns, hipping Quincy and Scotland Yard to Dr. Sun's presumptive role in draining Drac's power. 

Mark: Vlad gets a new friend in failed, man-hating fashion designer Daphne Wilkinson, who serves her wants-his-back-rent landlord up for supper, after the Count crash-lands through her window, desperate for blood. Wolfman and Colan (in typical top form) devote several pages presenting Daphne as an amoral femme fatale, almost plopping out of her low cut red dress to seduce landlord Hardy, so I'm hoping Marv gives us something new - Drac working with a willing human ally, rather than tapping Daph for the rich red by next month's page five.  

Werewolf by Night 31
"Death in White"
Story by Don Perlin and Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Jack and Topaz unsuccessfully try to get Lissa to travel with them on a ski trip with Buck, widow Elaine Marston and her daughter Buttons. (Yes, Buttons. No other name is given for this child. Oy.) Jack's first time on skis almost leads to a kiss with Topaz, but precocious Buttons starts a snowball fight instead. But fun and games soon turns into trepidation as a blizzard is on the way, as is the full moon! Quick cuts to Lt. Northrup and his wish to track Raymond Coker, who Jeesala of the Thousand Years knows has been cursed by the Beast-Man! Buck leaves Jack off in the deep woods, and as he waits for the full moon, Buck learns Buttons has wandered off in the woods and is lost in the blizzard. As Buck hops a snowmobile in search of his girlfriend's kid, Jack transforms when First Night begins! A hungry Werewolf begins to track Buttons, but Buck shows up in the nick of time, and his friend, of course, does not recognize him. Werewolf savagely slashes Buck five times, but the writer is able to save Buttons by shielding her from the beast, who lopes off after killing his prey, just when the search party reaches Buttons. At dawn, Jack awakes, waiting for Buck to pick him up, unaware of what Werewolf has done. -Joe Tura

Joe: "The Shattering Shocker You Dare Not Miss!" screams the cover. Well, I guess so, as far as this title is concerned. Man, having Werewolf kill Buck? Didn't really see that coming. But something about this one looks familiar, as if I've actually read it before. Hmm…But there's a lot to like about this well-done tale. Wait, let me clarify. For once, the Moench script works quite nicely, with only a mention of "grog" causing me to roll my eyes. The art is OK, but why does Perlin draw Lissa's expression as a Stepford Wife on page 2? Jack and Topaz almost kissing was a great moment, but of course a rotten kid has to ruin it! Call me crazy, but why the heck would Jack agree to go on vacation when he knows the full moon is coming. Do they never check their trusty Farmer's Almanac in L.A.? I mean, maybe they couldn't tell Elaine "We have to reschedule, Jack might turn into a werewolf in the middle of hot chocolate by the fire!", so they had to just deal with it, but still… Final note: If I had asked my wife to name our daughter "Buttons", I think she would have shot me.

Giant-Size Werewolf 5
"The Plunder of Paingloss"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Yong Montano
Colors Uncredited
Letters by Marcos Pelayo
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Buck takes Jack to the creepy house of demonologist Joaquin Zairre in search of a cure for Jack's lycanthropy, under the cover of an interview. But the occult master feels the aura of Jack to be unusual, and the friends leave. 27 days later, Buck plans to drop Jack off in the woods, but they're followed and nabbed by Zairre, who waits for Jack to change, but before he can kill the beast, a strange black geyser erupts and Werewolf is snared by a silver lariat from the pool! Wizard Grithstane has dimension-napped our anti-hero, helping the odd Paingloss, who needs the beast for some mysterious reason. In a world with two full moons, Paingloss and Werewolf zip away on a "night-streaker", almost come to blows, and end up battling "shadow sharks" before the craft crashes and Jack turns human. Paingloss explains the worlds of Shadow-Realm and Searland, and how he wanted a beast-man from the "other-place" to appease his love, Queen Delandra. Attacked by giant snails, they're taken to the palace of the half-queen, who sends them to the Shadow-Realm, where they battle Paingloss' former master, Sardanus—actually a man in a suit who Werewolf rips to shreds. Grithstane sends Werewolf back to his dimension, where Zairre is thrown into the pool, never to be seen again. (We hope.)
-Joe Tura 

Joe: "It's Double-Length Danger and Excitement!" Yay! Thankfully, it's the last Giant-Size issue, because although the regular book is getting better, too much Werewolf is certainly not good at all. This issue is wacky and wasteful. Strange other worlds? Check. Long narrations that ramble endlessly? Check. Negative-looking villain who turns out to be not too bad? Check. Losing the readers' interest? Check. Seriously, I didn't care about this one halfway through. Yet, I must press on to try and figure out what the heck is going on. Well, I don't know. This one goes off on so many tangents I found myself reaching for my scientific calculator. A long, rambling and confusing tale, with OK art from the Filipino Montaño. I think I need to go to bed now…..

Filler! "The Most Miserable Man in the World!", originally from Mystic #16, published in January 1953, is the story of Ahab, an unlucky chap who, from camels tripping him to musclemen stealing his wife, summons the Devil to try and reverse his fortunes—only to find out he's been in Hades the whole time! Zing!

Second Filler! "He's Coming to Get Me!" from World of Fantasy #11 (April, 1958), finds a man worried that his brother is coming to get him, but the brother mysteriously leads him to…a spaceship that the siblings can get on the last trip off Earth! Huzzah!

Third Filler! (This is exhausting!) "The Unsolid Man" from World of Fantasy #13, drawn by Joe Orlando in August 1958, sees a man on the run from the law who uses a rocket sled that makes him seemingly transparent but really only displaces him in time and he's captured. Um, if you say so….

Chris: Doug continues to distance himself from tales of overnight brawls with LA crackpots, followed by the long slink home to sleep it off.  This story upholds the welcome recent trend from Doug, as we have the Werewolf as a pawn of supernatural forces and their followers; I prefer moments like this, when I’m fumbling around in the dark with the Werewolf, trying to figure out the motivations and loyalties of the people who have come in contact with him.  

The mood is spooky and mysterious, even oppressive at times (as Doug is able to refrain from wisecracking and topical-referencing), which makes for a puzzling reveal of the great-and-powerful Sardanus as nothing but a little guy in a thoroughly vulnerable metal suit.  The ridiculous sight of the “tiny man” in his briefs is then followed by him being savagely “ripped to shreds” by an uncaring Werewolf – one of very few instances when we see the Werewolf deliberately kill someone.  The drastic changes in mood are difficult to reconcile.  In fairness, I think Steve G is one of few writers who could balance the absurdity with cruelty; in Doug’s hands, I’m left thinking that he didn’t know how else to write his way out of the corner.  
Montaňo brings another solid effort, as he provides a pivotal contribution to the mood, and also applies plentiful imagination to the bizarre setting and creatures.  Is there any reason why he wasn’t given an opportunity to provide art for the regular monthly title?

Jungle Action 16
The Black Panther in
"And All Our Past Decades Have Seen Revolutions!"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Billy Graham
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Janice Chiang
Cover by Gil Kane

T’Challa and Monica enjoy some overdue time together, as they ride the backs of sea turtles, swim, and share thoughts of their hopes, and concerns, for the future. Taku and Venomm share another of their now-familiar discussions.  W’Kabi arrives to question Venomm about how he was able to arrive undetected in Wakanda, and Venomm proceeds to describe the time when T’Challa first met Killmonger.  Killmonger had feigned allegiance to T’Challa, when in fact he was harboring resentment toward his prince due to the death of his parents, killed by Klaw in his attempt to steal vibranium from Wakanda. Venomm takes advantage of a lapse in concentration by his captors, and grabs Taku, threatening to kill him unless W’Kabi surrenders his sidearm.  W’Kabi finally backs down; Venomm uses the purloined pistol to strike both men in the head before he escapes.  T’Challa discovers his downed comrades; Taku comes around, but W’Kabi’s injury is grave enough that Mendinao determines that his healing methods will not help, and that W’Kabi’s only chance is through the aid of western medicine at the hospital.  The Panther pursues Venomm, and finds him at the now-abandoned former stronghold of Killmonger – the village of N’Jadaka.  Venomm sends a giant serpent against his foe, and T’Challa quickly finds himself entwined, with the serpent crushing his ribcage and cutting off his breath.  The Panther fights his way free, and bashes the serpent’s head against a rock.  Taku arrives, and declares that if Venomm intends to kill his chieftain, then Venomm will have to kill him as well.  Venomm calls off further attack by his deadly reptiles, and slinks off into the coming night. -Chris Blake

Chris: I’m sorry to say that this is the first installment of “Panther’s Rage” that really didn’t do it for me.  Part of it was due to the over-written early part of the story, when T’Challa’s and Monica’s simple enjoyment is obscured by Don’s observations about the difficulties turtles have to endure in order to survive.  Brevity being the soul of wit, T’Challa’s moment with Monica in pages 6-7 would’ve been much more effective if Don could’ve let Billy’s illustrations speak (mostly) for themselves.  Taku’s exchange with Venomm provides useful illustration for both characters, and W’Kabi’s standoff with Venomm is effectively done.  But after that, T’Challa’s meeting with Kantu feels tacked-in (as another reminder of Killmonger’s thoughtless cruelty), and Taku’s confrontation with Venomm at the end feels somewhat tacked-on, as if Don weren’t sure how else to conclude Venomm’s attack on the Panther.  My complaint is that Venomm seems to back off too easily – Taku’s unprompted observations about the futility of “revolutions” don’t seem to provide sufficient grounds to convince Venomm that he should refrain from killing T’Challa.

Graham’s first-ever (for this title) self-inked art is quite good; if anything, it helps to reinforce both an understanding that his pencils have been solid all along, and an appreciation that the inkers assigned have been well-suited to complement Graham’s art.  I’ve already pointed out the simple handling (art-wise, at least) of two of our principal characters on p 6-7 (above); close-ups add intensity to the standoff on p 15 (left); Graham again conveys the Panther’s physicality, as he’s stalking Venomm on p 23, and during the serpent-battle on p 27.
Matthew: We’re told that next issue is the twelfth and final chapter of “Panther’s Rage” (man, that went by fast), so although this one is scarcely devoid of the titular action, it is perhaps not surprising that it feels somewhat like the calm before the storm, most notably with the romantic interlude enjoyed by T’Challa and Monica and the colloquy between Venomm and Taku.  Having had his work embellished by a parade of others for much of this arc, Billy now undertakes the task himself, and while I might personally prefer his pencils finished by a solid inker, undiluted Graham is nothing to sneeze at.  It’s good to get some additional background on Killmonger before it hits the fan, and the fight with the snake (below) is well depicted in word and image.

Marvel Two-In-One 10
The Thing and The Black Widow in
"Is This the Day the World Ends?"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Bob Brown and Klaus Janson
Colors by Klaus Janson
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Chased through Central Park, the Widow rams her sports car into Ben, out walking with Alicia, and both are captured by the Sword of Judgement, revolutionaries led by Agamemnon (aka Natasha’s old friend Andrei Rostov), based on a North Atlantic complex, and claiming to avenge the exploited everwhere.  Operation Poseidon is their plan to detonate the world’s biggest H-bomb at a depth of 3½ miles, causing a radioactive tsunami that will destroy the East Coast.  Tash uses organic weaponry hidden under her costume to disrupt the force field preventing Ben from breaking out of their cell, decimates Andrei’s men while he pulls the bomb back up by its severed cable, and summons S.H.I.E.L.D. after Ben downs Andrei with the cable. 
-Matthew Bradley

Matthew: This is what I like to call “aggressively average”:  there’s nothing hideously wrong with it, but there isn’t really a whole lot to recommend it, either.  Brown may have been selected for this issue (the first of his Marvel Two-fer-One) because of his experience drawing the Widow in Daredevil, but alas, Battlin’ Bob is not the first Marvel artist to be flummoxed by trying to draw the Thing, and longtime readers of this blog may well imagine my reaction to pairing him with inker/colorist Janson.  The done-in-one format leaves rising star Claremont unable to do much with either the promising Ben/Natasha team-up or the vaguely defined villains, especially allowing for the big set piece of the bomb, yet at least the cover is surprisingly accurate for once.

Scott: Klaus Janson is a good counterpart for Bob Brown. Actually Janson’s style is so strong, he tends to overwhelm his pencillers, and Brown is no exception. The story is pretty good, but the ridiculousness of the high stakes in such a lower tier book keeps this from being anything close to suspenseful. Claremont tries, though, and he adds a surprising body count among the civilians in the opening chase. It’s all in the narration, not in the illustrations, but it does make this a little darker. It works for the scenes with the Black Widow, but the Thing was never a good fit with fatal collateral damage. He’s too lightweight a hero, too much of a force of fair play and good to be effective in so ruthless an arena.

Chris: Solid debut for Claremont.  Very clever escape plan, as the Widow smuggles in her own set of tools (with Ben’s abashment a nice bonus).  Not a moment too soon, I might add – even though Madame Romanova features prominently in the action, she’s consigned to out-of-character speechless Helpless Hostage for three whole pages, until p 15.  Extra points to Chris for having the “Widder Woman” crash the car because the space in the trees is too tight (p 3), rather than give us the usual “Moving too fast!  Plenty of time to talk about it, but not nearly enough time to avoid hitting them!” thing. 

I will say that there’s a serious timing problem; the Cheerful One would have us believe that the Thing and Widow escape, which causes Agamemnon to sound the alarm, and then blow up the controls for the bomb-winch, and then – where does he go?  The Widow spends the next few hours (as Claremont tells us) clobbering henchmen, while Ben hauls the bomb up from three miles under, until “Aggie” returns and only now starts firing off shots.  Was he unable to find his rifle, or something, for that whole time -?  Did it take longer than he anticipated to apply the first coat of paint to the spare bathroom (“Ahhr – shoulda taped it first,” he snarls, wiping off smudges . . .)?  I appreciate the brisk and concise action in the story, and the way Claremont is able to put both characters’ skills to their best advantage, but I would’ve preferred if Chris had figured out some credible way to detain our deluded would-be world-destructor.
No one’s ever going to campaign for Brown to be a regular penciller for the Thing (he looks a little too cartoony, a little too often), but I hope you all got to see how well Janson’s inks can work with Brown on characters like the Widow (see p 15-16), and how well that bodes for Daredevil when these artists are reunited on that title later in the year.  

Matthew: Arrgh! And I don't mean the comic cited below.

Also This Month

Arrgh! #4

Chamber of Chills #17
Crypt of Shadows #18
Giant-Size Kid Colt #3
Giant-Size Marvel Triple Action #2 (all-reprint)
Giant-Size Thor #1 (all-reprint) ->
The Human Torch #6
The Invincible Iron Man #76
(reprinted from Iron Man #9, January 1969)
Kid Colt Outlaw #196
Marvel's Greatest Comics #57
Marvel Super-Heroes #51
My Love #35
Nostalgia Illustrated #7
Rawhide Kid #127
Sgt Fury #127
Spidey Super Stories #10
Tomb of Darkness #15
Where Monsters Dwell #36


Dracula Lives 13
Cover by Earl Norem

"Bounty for a Vampire"

Story by Tony Isabella
Art by Tony DeZuniga

"Bloody Mary"

Story by Rick Margopolous
Art by George Tuska and Virgilio Redondo

"The Toad"

Story and Art by Tom Sutton

"A Dracula Portfolio by Russ Heath"

"Blood of My Blood"

Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Steve Gan

Tarnation and land's sakes! Tony Isabella kicks off the final issue of Dracula Lives! with a tale combining Dracula with the western genre, a martini that goes down rather easily. "The Marshal" heads for Transylvania, hired by the father of one of the Count's victims. Let's call him Marshal Blade as he's equipped with silver bullets, crosses and a holster filled with... yep, wooden stakes. Through flashbacks we see "The Marshal" run out of town by a crooked mayor (at least I think that's what happened -- it's a bit hazy) and the trouble his steadfast belief in the law can get him into. As he faces the blood-sucker with a shotgun full of silver,  "The Marshal" is reminded he has no warrant and has entered Castle Dracula illegally. Admitting that he's wronged the Count, he turns to go, promising he'll be back with a warrant and Dracula (befuddled but apt to take advantage of another's stupidity) pounces. "The Marshal" lets him have it with both barrels and remarks that he's not one to break the law unless it's self defense. One of the better Tony Isabella scripts I've read, "Bounty for a Vampire" entertains despite a few cliches ("The Marshal" is clearly a riff on Eastwood's "Man with No Name" character) and a load of questions (so how is a vampire resurrected after being blown to pieces with a shotgun?).  Tony DeZuniga's art is dynamic but I do have to point out the... um, similarity... between "The Marshal" and DeZuniga's most famous character, Jonah Hex. They're dead ringers.

"Bounty for a Vampire"

Mary's leading a nothing life; dead end relationships with bullying men and no self confidence. Until she meets a certain Transylvanian in a bar and falls in love. Dracula gives her the bite and takes her out on the town to teach her to hunt but when the Count does to "Bloody Mary" what every other man has done, she finally has enough and ends it. Not a bad little story, with a nice twist ending, but the visuals are sub-par. Tuska and Redondo team up to give us something that looks just like something that would have ended up in an Eerie Publication. A bit too sleazy and overly-inked for my tastes.

Tom Sutton's "The Toad" has nothing whatsoever to do with Dracula (or vampires for that matter) so I'm assuming it's a leftover that was meant to go to Monsters Unleashed before they pulled the plug. That's MU's loss and DL's gain. This is easily the best story published in the pages of Dracula Lives in a long, long time. That's really no surprise since Sutton was one of the two or three best horror writer/artists of the 1970s and "The Toad" exhibits most of the reasons why. Outsider Urlik Marsh lives in the forest, rarely seen and when he does venture out in public, he's got a burlap sack over his head. What's underneath? Well, with a title like "The Toad," we can certainly guess, but the rotten kids in Urlik's village don't have the foresight we do. Urlik is a strange one but he's peaceful and he keeps to himself. One day, while he goes in to town to sell butterflies for spare change, the aforementioned scamps break in to Urlik's shack and trash it, destroying his beautiful paintings and fine antique violin. The giant comes home just in time to witness the final act and the destruction is too much for him to handle; he blows his top and the delinquents scatter, heading deep into the woods. When one gets caught in a bog, Urlik wades out to save him but is blown to bits by the kid's hillbilly father. As they walk home, the dad tells his son: "You just forget about this ugly old toad. We'll keep you safe from monsters..." The irony's anything but subtle, I know, but there are plenty of fabulous winks at the reader if you know what to look for. Urlik Marsh is obviously a descendant of Obed Marsh, resident of H.P. Lovecraft's Innsmouth (in fact, one of the kids explains: "Folks say this is the oldest place in these parts. Was the original Marsh homestead a'fore they went off down to Innsmouth an' got into the sea trade."). It wasn't the first (nor would it be the last) time Sutton mined H.P.'s world for ideas and images. Most of the artist's stunning work over at Charlton was Lovecraft-inspired.

One of the true masters just doin' his thing!

There's a real sharp portfolio of vampire art by one of the masters of the medium, Russ Heath, including one of the most outrageous depictions of Lilith you're likely to see. I'm not sure but this page may have grown hair on my 14-year old chest. Unfortunately, the run of Dracula Lives doesn't end on that high note but on the low of "Blood of My Blood," yet another one of those boring historical "Here's how the Count got his start" stories that pop up now and then. None of these stories seem to take into account the previous entries so you have differing narratives on how the Count got turned or what kind of forest animals he can transform into or how long he can hold his breath under water or... you get the picture. Gerry Conway's version also includes, ostensibly, a relative of Elizabeth Bathory (aka "Blood Countess," last seen in Dracula Lives #4) and lots of panels of Dracula swearing he's the baddest MF in the land and blahblahblah. Surely, the best thing that can be said about the termination of this title is that I won't have to read any more "Dracula Meets George Washington" historical hodgepodges. For that I am eternally grateful to Marv Wolfman or Archie Goodwin or Stan Lee... whoever was responsible for the axe. Hell, I'll thank them all. -Peter Enfantino

Oh Russ, you are such a naughty boy!

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 14
Cover by Neal Adams

"Thief in Golden Shadows"

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Rudy Nebres

"The Valley of Ancestors"

Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by George Perez and Dan Adkins

This is the big Bruce Lee-themed issue.... yeah, I know what you're saying.... doesn't every issue of The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu have something to do with Bruce? Yes, but this is an issue packed full of Bruce-ities: Bruce Lee's weapons, Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune-Do (don't ask), Bruce Lee movie reviews, Bruce Lee's vegetarian menu; it's all here. The whole package. And thankfully, since there are no rules to reviewing black and white magazines, I choose to skip it all and concentrate on the fiction. "Thief in Golden Shadows" is the third part of the "Saga of the Golden Dragon" serial and, for the most part, it's an enjoyable enough actioner that doesn't slow down long enough for the reader to think about what's going on and guffaw (although,  come to think of it, I guffawed quite a few times so maybe it did slow down in spots). I know Paul Gulacy is artist of choice when one looks back on the storied career of Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu but I have to say that Rudy Nebres would have to come in a close second. Nebres' art is a bit confusing at times when the action from one panel bleeds too much into the next  (see the sample below) but there's no denying the guy has a stunning visual flare. Doug is... well, Doug. The opening finds Shang saving Shareen (whose predicament has stretched her legs to twice their previous length) from a spiky death but it's best to ignore the talky bits as they'll only throw you off. Shareen's rescue is convoluted and downright impossible (Shang balances three cobras on his left big toe while the right one destroys the spiky bits) and I defy The Hulk to attempt what The Master of KFC (Kung Fu Comics) succeeds at on page 14 (also below, because I just couldn't help myself). With all that being said, I still kinda enjoyed this installment but can we, you know, move on in the story a bit?

If you look closely, you'll see The Master of KFC limber up so
much that he kicks himself in the face

Hands down, the trickiest KFC stunt you'll see this month!

While meditating, Lin Sun is visited by a samurai named Kanbei Kikuchiyo. Claiming to be "the samurai of God," Kanbei tells Lin his services are desperately needed in "The Valley of Ancestors," an acreage of heaven that has been beset by soldiers of fortune and murderers. The samurai takes Lin to the valley where they are immediately attacked by several bands of assassins before they can make their way into the Village of God. There, they find that Death (in the guise of a skeletal samurai) has wiped out all traces of life and hope. Lin and Kanbei fight Death until Lin realizes that the evil warrior is nothing more than a man and they cut him down. Kanbei Kikuchiyo thanks Lin for his help and sends him back to his own world, but not before revealing that the samurai is actually Lin's ancestor. A thoroughly involving installment of the solo Sons of the Tiger series, a statement I had yet to make in any way, shape, or form. Yes, it's heavily influenced by Kurosawa (Mantlo dedicates the story to the director on the splash) and I'm still sketchy on how folks die in heaven (aren't they already dead?), but there are enough original flashes here to sustain interest and Mantlo's script manages to do what neither of the previous solo stories could: provide some solid back story for a Son of the Tiger. Let's hope when Bill reunites the trio for their next team adventure (in #16), we see the fruits of what seems to be an upswing in his writing abilities (that next adventure, by the way, will throw an intriguing twist into the Sons of the Tiger saga). Dan Adkins and George Perez seem to be gelling into a solid one-two artistic punch. I've never been an Adkins fan but his inking here only makes Perez's work cleaner; we're thankfully free of the usual Adkins ink blots that mar his work. The contrast between layouts of Adkins/Perez and Nebres is startling, with the latter the free-wheeling "don't box me in" rebel and the former, obvious fans of convention with their neat and tidy rows of panels on each page (though they do break tradition now and then). The trick is to make both formats work and, for the most part, it all does.

A heapin' helpin' of Kurosawa

The next issue, for those paying attention, was to be a "Summer Special Annual" but when the black and white line collapsed, the Annual was folded into the regular numbering and appeared as #15, an all-reprint issue. This will give me ample time to find new ways to describe round house kicks and karate chops. I'll be back in September, whether I like it or not. -Peter Enfantino

Planet of the Apes 10
Cover by Bob Larkin

"Kingdom on an Island of the Apes: Part II"

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Rico Rival and Walt Simonson

"The Children of the Bomb"

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Alfredo Alcala

The Beneath adaptation gets the cover treatment this month and it's a Bob Larkin beauty. Inside, we start off with an Archie editorial explaining how John Warner is the new Associate Editor, why the "Glossary of POTA" is not included here due to extra pages needed for the second part of "Kingdom", and that Walt Simonson drew the new splash page since the original story was supposed to run in one special. Well, there ya go.

The long, sprawling conclusion of "Kingdom" kicks off with time-traveler Derek Zane watching eye-patched gorilla Gorodon carrying his toolbox and knapsack to orangutan Xirinius' dome, and spying a cage full of humans. After nightfall, Derek sneaks down to the dome, knocking out a guard and grabbing some bitter fruit along the way, but Gorodon enters before he can grab his stuff. After an argument with the Ministrator about humans, the general savagely stabs Xirinius to death! Derek climbs down, threatening Gorodon with his gun, ties him up and (after being bitten), frees the humans and hightails it out of there on a horse-drawn wagon full of gunpowder barrels. Derek builds a raft, loads the gunpowder and makes it to a nearby island, where he's met by ape Sir Gawain of King Arthur's Court!

Arthur, an orangutan, rules in Avedon's large castle, in a society of apes and humans alike. Lighting a flare, he intrigues the King, and is tasked by the gorgeous human Lady Andrea to prove his mettle by slaying the dragon that ravages their land. Derek shoots the giant lizard and is knighted for his victory—but then quickly challenged by Gawain to a joust. Lady Andrea visits Derek in the dungeon, where he learns the city patterned their lives after old books, after the nuclear holocaust arrived. At the tournament, Derek chooses flashlight and lariat against Gawain's lance, winning the day when he shines the light in his rival's face and yanking him off the horse. The angry ape tries to kill Derek and is exiled for his "unchivalrous conduct". After several weeks of feasts, dancing and hunts, not to mention the wooing of Lady Andrea, Avedon gets wind of Gorodon's regiment planning to attack! The court uses a volley of arrows and Derek's gunpowder barrels to wipe out 2/3 of the brutish attackers, but Gorodon makes it to the top of the parapets. Luckily, Lady Andrea tosses Derek an ax, which he buries in Gorodon's skull! A few days pass before Derek and Lady Andrea wed, with the time-traveler accepting his new life, yet wondering if he will ever run into missing astronaut Taylor.

Wow, what an epic tale that goes from futuristic Ape City to medieval King Arthur's Court in a heartbeat, with adventurer Derek winging it every step of the way. Monech throws in the kitchen sink while he's at it, accompanied by fine art by Rico Rival. But I can't help but think they leave it open for a sequel—where did Gawain go and is he plotting his revenge? I had forgotten this story completely, and have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed the second part no matter how wacky it got. Who needs some dopey Glossary anyway?

This is followed by a very skip-able article about the Ape City set on the Fox lot, then Part V of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Brent witnesses his captors reveal their "inmost selves", namely their gross mutations, to their God, the bomb. Then they reveal to Brent that they're holding Taylor, who they make Brent attack via mind control! Nova saying Taylor's name distracts the mutant enough for Taylor to knife him, but they're unable to escape. Meantime, the apes are nearing the city, but are stopped by a vision of the lawgiver! Zaius rides on and the statue topples on him…but he lives, having proved it to be a trick. Ursus and his army advance, finding a way down, but the mutants are watching. A well-done chapter full of energetic Alcala art, setting us up for next month's "mind-mangling, senses-shattering final chapter to [the] Ape-lauded adaptation" which sounds cool! Plus we're promised that glossary thing, which sounds very un-cool. –Joe Tura

Savage Tales 11
Cover by Mike Whelan

“Savage Mails”

“Factful Features and Fantastic Frivolity Formed and Fermented from Frugal-Minded Armadilloes”

“Marauder in a Cage of Time”
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Steve Gan & Rico Rival

“Tales of the Savage Land: Intruder!”
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Russ Heath

If you had bothered to read the idiotically titled editorial “Factful Features and Fantastic Frivolity Formed and Fermented from Frugal-Minded Armadilloes” back in 1975 — I believe it’s spelled armadillos by the way — you would have discovered that the issue of Savage Tales in your hands was to be the last. It, along with Dracula Lives and Vampire Tales, were being cancelled to make room for new black-and-whites that would also soon be cancelled. But before we start shoveling dirt on the corpse, respect must be paid. Roy Thomas and Barry Smith’s adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “Red Nails” in issues 2 and 3 was the pinnacle of anything Marvel produced with its entire black-and-white line. And while Savage Tales was still in Conan mode, we saw such talent as Gil Kane, Neal Adams and Jim Starlin in its pages. Plus, let’s not forget that Man-Thing made his debut in the very first issue. Plus, there were excellent articles and other features. 

So I’ll always be confused why Ka-Zar was introduced as the main character in #6 and the Cimmerian shifted over to the new The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian. I have heard things about Savage Tales getting lost on the stands: supposedly retailers didn’t know what to do with the thing so it was usually displayed with men’s adventure magazines that featured topless dames and sweaty dudes on the cover. Fine, I can understand that. But why didn’t Marvel just change the title to Savage Tales of Conan the Barbarian? People would have realized that it’s a Conan magazine and we wouldn’t have had to wade through six issues of Jungle Lord hokum. But, there’s nothing to be done about it now except to lower the coffin. Let’s start turning the crank.

In “Marauder in a Cage of Time,” Ka-Zar and Zabu come across a unicorn struggling against a noose trap that’s snared its horn: a ravenous raptor is also approaching the helpless horse. The jungle brothers attack and kill the dinosaur. Ka-Zar frees the terrified unicorn and leaps on its back, breaking its wild spirit and making it his mount. An old friend named Tongah approaches on horseback looking for his mate Seesha, missing since morning. Ka-Zar and Zabu join the search. Soon they come across a white man being attacked by a bear. After Ka-Zar slays the beast, the shaken outsider, Bernard Kloss, tells the men that he is a paleontologist and has come to the Hidden Jungle in an effort to have it designated as a non-profit preserve. However his guide, Gordon Greig, a vicious mercenary with a metal hand, had different plans: he wants to bring back some of the dinosaurs and exhibit the creatures for monetary gain. Grieg is also the one who has kidnapped Seesha, needing her help to find his way out of the valley. Ka-Zar heads out after Greig, quickly finding him threatening the terrified Seesha on a raft floating down a river. The jungle lord leaps onto the wooden craft and is about to kill the mercenary when a huge, long-necked dinosaur emerges from the water. Ka-Zar is swallowed and the creature submerges. But the ex-Lord Plunder uses his knife to cut himself out of the dinosaur’s throat and swims back up to the raft. There, he slices off Grieg’s metal hand and plunges his knife into the mercenary’s heart. Tongah and Seesha are reunited and, with Ka-Zar’s approval, Kloss decides to stay in the Hidden Jungle.

About what you expect from a Ka-Zar tale, nothing special, nothing terrible. There’s a subplot about how Ka-Zar had dumped Seesha before she met Tongah. When he rescues her at the end, Seesha actually wanted to go off with Ka-Zar rather than return to her current lover. Moench has a bit at the beginning where Ka-Zar criticizes Tongah’s people for their awkward tongue, claiming that they make speeches when all that is really needed is three words. I nearly fell off my chair when I came across that bit. Really Doug? Have you ever read one of the comics you have written yourself? Moench also has some flinch-worthy dialogue during the taming of the unicorn, with Ka-Zar proclaiming “But before freedom, you must learn to serve me!!” Really? That’s how you earn freedom? Serving first? Odd. The art is quite good and Seesha is very lovely.

Savage Tales’ answer to “Tales of Asgard,” “Tales of the Savage Land: Intruder!” is set in the Hidden Land but doesn’t feature Ka-Zar or any of his buddies. After a failed revolution, Clete Brandon, ex-Green Beret and current soldier-of-fortune, is the only survivor of a plane crash in the Antarctic waste — all others were killed by the impact or murdered by Brandon for the supplies he needed to stay alive. Days later, Brandon finds the entrance to the Hidden Jungle. A series of battles with a native tribe ensues, the skilled soldier inflicting many causalities until his escapes become increasingly narrow. Soon starving and out of ammunition, Brandon tumbles across baboons eating a boar. He engages and defeats the leader, taking the head position at the feeding frenzy. Finally Clete Brandon has found his true calling: leading a pack of wild animals in the savage Hidden Jungle. This is basically a 10-page space filler but Heath delivers some fine artwork at least.

So there we have it. Let’s wave farewell to Savage Tales. I’m sure that there’s at least one professor out there that wishes he could say goodbye to Ka-Zar as well. -Tom Flynn

Joe Tura, Ka-Zar Defender: Not sure if anyone can see me waving my hand frantically over here!!


Kull and the Barbarians 2
Cover by Michael Whelan

“Of Swords, Sorcery — and Science”
Text by Roy Thomas

“Teeth of the Dragon”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Jess Jodloman

“The Hills of the Dead”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Alan Weiss & Neal Adams

“The Swordswoman and the Scribe”
Text by Roy Thomas

“Red Sonja, She-Devil with a Sword”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Howie Chaykin

“Blackmark Versus the Mind Demons” 
Story and Art by Gil Kane

After the debacle of the reprint-filled debut, Kull and the Barbarians gets on track with #2. Well somewhat. While everything is new, there’s not much to get excited about.

“Teeth of the Dragon” picks up right after the last issue of Kull the Destroyer (#15, August 1974). Kull, Brule the Spear-Slayer and Ridondo the Minstrel are attacked by a squadron of the Black Legion led by Hulgar, Kull’s former lieutenant. The Valusian soldiers are quickly defeated. Before dying, Hulgar informs his former king that the new ruler, Ardyon aka Thulsa Doom, threatened the lives of their families if they didn’t fall in line. Kull and his companions continue on to the coast, boarding a ship sailing for the Pictish Isles, where Kull hope to raise an army to regain his throne. On the way, the warship is attacked by a huge sea dragon: the Atlantean warrior dives under the waves and single-handedly slays the creature. When they finally arrive at Kurmonn, the largest of the islands and Brule’s native home, the exiled Valusians are captured by members of the Hawk Moon tribe, vicious savages who have defeated Brule’s people. They are brought before the sorcerer Teyanoga, the tribe’s leader. In a demonstration of his mighty powers, Teyanoga transforms a slave into a monstrous snake-man, only to lop off its head. Kull manages to break his bonds and frees Brule and Ridondo. But Teyanoga reanimates the headless snake-man and it pounces on Kull. Ridondo shoves the evil sorcerer into a bonfire while the fallen monarch drives his blade into the walking reptile’s exposed neck cavity. While severely burned, Teyanoga emerges from the flames and orders his Pict warriors to kill the intruders. Kull, Brule and Ridondo flee, making their way back to their ship. The mighty monarch and the minstrel sail away — Brule stays behind to free his kingdom from Teyanoga’s terrible rule.


Marvel’s Kull was always a bit of a bore and this 26-pager doesn’t change my mind. But the art is simply fantastic. First time I’ve encounter Jess Jodloman — looks like he worked mainly for Warren and DC — but he stands proud among the Fabulous Filipinos of the era. He has a great grasp of action and he illustrates some magnificent musculature. I had forgotten that both Kull and Ridondo knew that Ardyon was actually Thulsa Doom but the sorcerer had weaved a spell that forbid them of speaking his name. Not really sure why Conway had Teyanoga behead the snake-man before it ended up tussling with Kull, but Jodloman drew the hell out of the thing.

Based on the original from the August 1930 issue of Weird Tales, the 10-page “The Hills of the Dead” is my first encounter with Robert E. Howard’s Englishman Solomon Kane, the Puritan adventurer who roamed the world battling evil. He’s a dark character with slouch hat and thigh-high boots. Plus, he’s armed to the teeth with pistol, rifle and rapier. Here, he’s in Africa visiting his friend, the fetish-man N’Longa, who gives him a voodoo staff for protection. Solomon moves on, saving a native girl, Zunna, from a lion. They camp for the night and are attacked by two grey-skinned vampires. Kane’s modern weapons are ineffective, but N’Longa’s staff proves useful in dispatching the undead walkers. The tale is too short to really have much impact. Weiss’ art is very pedestrian though obviously helped by the inks of the great Neal Adams.

Roy is back with “Red Sonja, She-Devil with a Sword,” aided by some very nice artwork by Howie Chaykin. Since she was actually created by Thomas and Barry Smith, you could call foul including Sonja in a magazine devoted to Robert E. Howard characters. But, as said before, Howard had a character named Red Sonya so we’ll let it slide. Looking for shelter from the coming night in the Darkwoods, the She-Devil encounters a young wizard named Ghunthar who gives her a small brass casket: if Sonja gives it to the lady of the yonder castle she will be welcomed to stay. Along the way, Sonja encounters another strange figure, a masked man who runs off. When Sonja arrives, she finds the old mistress slain by the mysterious masked man who is actually a werewolf. The hairy horror grabs and opens the casket — a cloud of silver dust bursts out and the monster is killed. Finding a servant, Sonja is told that the werewolf was actually Ghunthar: after murdering the mistress, his mother, he wanted to be killed himself. Obviously tipping its hat to Little Red Riding Hood, this is not a bad little 10-pager, probably the best solo Sonja story I’ve read so far. 

I thought I had seen the last of Gil Kane’s Blackmark when he last appeared in The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #4. But he’s back in “Blackmark Versus the Mind Demons.” This marks the start of the serialization of the second, unpublished graphic novel. After leading the slave revolt against King Kargon, Blackmark reunites disparate warlords to prepare for New Earth’s greatest threat: the Psi-Keep’s demon hordes. With its confusing layouts and typewriter fonts, Blackmark continues to avoid my appreciation. Besides, does something so clearly inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs belong in a magazine devoted to Robert E. Howard?

"Red Sonja"

Finally, Roy’s editorial “Of Swords, Sorcery — and Science” contains little of note and there is “The Swordswoman and the Scribe,” a one-page feature on Dawn Greil, a woman who dressed as Barry Smith’s Red Sonja during the 1974 San Diego Comic Art Convention. This is the second time she’s appeared in a black-and-white magazine. Methinks Roy had a crush on the lusty lass. -Tom Flynn


In what the contents page calls Roy Thomas’ “instant overview of the many universes of Robert E. Howard,” titled “Of Swords, Sorcery – and Science,” the entire mythological milieu of Kull and Conan is laid out, while distinguishing the Thurian and post-Cataclysmic Hyborian Ages from the landscape of Solomon Kane who “dwells in historical times – the later years of the Elizabethan Age…”  Also distinguishing Kane and his world from that of Kull and Conan: “Not for Kane…are the murky intrigues of courtiers and courtesans.”  Instead, Kane’s “lust for danger” takes him “anyplace on earth where adventure calls.”  (This should please Professor Flynn who wearies of Kull’s court and its connivers.)  Thomas hints that Howard gave birth to the sword-and-sorcery genre with Kane, not the later Kull as is commonly cited, even though Kane is “placed within recorded history,” a fact that may disqualify Thomas’ subtle claim in purist circles.
Berni Wrightson provides a moody Solomon Kane frontispiece (below) for Kane’s debut in the pages of this issue, better than what Alan Weiss and Neal Adams come up with in “The Hills of the Dead,” adapted from  
Weird Tales (August 1930).  Weiss and Adams make Kane look more ballet dancer than cavalier, a questionable artistic interpretation that does not do justice to Howard’s hero.  But his visage is at least grim, and once Kane dons his coat and slouch hat, things get better.

Deep in the African heart of darkness, Kane receives the fabled “cat-headed Voodoo stave of unguessable antiquity” as a gift from N’Longa, his fetish-man friend last seen in the 1928 short story “Red Shadows” which #33-34 (December 1976 and February 1977) later adapted.  

Kane, the quintessential Christian soldier, is “Highly suspicious of witchcraft,” but puts aside his misgivings and accepts the weapon anyway out of deference to the one he calls “my blood-brother – a magician of the Slave Coast…”  Still, as Kane trudges on alone, “his conscience troubles him for keeping a thing so obviously diabolical in nature.”  Ironically, in the story “The Footfalls Within” (from Weird Tales, September 1931), it is revealed that this is the staff of another Solomon, the biblical king of Israel who “had in truth driven the demons westward and sealed them in strange places.”  Not only that, it is “the staff that had been the rod of the Pharaohs and of Moses and of Solomon and of nameless Atlantean kings behind them.”

The sharp-pointed staff proves fortuitously useful against a race of walking dead vampires Kane encounters in the highlands, but the adaptation’s pacing is off and by this point the story feels over before it begins.  Luckily there is a part two, “Out of the Silent City,” coming in Kull and the Barbarians #3. -Gilbert Colon


Professor Mark's contract stipulates that we reprint this letter
at least twice a year and further that his name is in bold.

Professor Bradley sent in a synopsis and brilliant commentary
for this advertisement but the Dean misplaced it. My bad.

Tune in on Sunday when Professor of the Moldy Pulp, Gilbert Colon, dissects Unknown Worlds #4! Be there or be a stinking commie Martian!

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