Monday, October 30, 2006
One of the fun things about collecting comics is setting goals and then hopefully completing them. I've accumulated complete runs of different titles over the years but nothing like a good friend of mine, who, when he gets this one issue, will have a complete run of every DC war title ever printed. DC had what they called the Big 5 war titles. All American Men Of War, Our Army At War, Star Spangled War Stories, Our Fighting Forces, and GI Combat. All American Men Of War ran 116 issues from 1953-1966. Our Army At War ran 301 issues from 1952-1977. Star Spangled War Stories ran 202 issues from 1952-1977. Our Fighting Forces ran 181 issues from 1954-1978. GI Combat ran 245 issues from 1957-1987. This is a very impressive run and I'm quite impressed with my friend's commitment to completing it. This particular issue sports a great Joe Kubert cover plus 4 interior stories featuring art by Kubert, Ross Andru, Jack Abel, and Russ Heath. The very prolific Robert Kanigher wrote two of the stories and the other two were by Bob Haney and Bill Finger. From January, 1958.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
We conclude our look at 70's Marvel horror by taking a look at perhaps the greatest title a comic ever had. Giant-Size Man-Thing lasted 4 issues in 1974-75 and featured Marvel's answer to DC's Swamp Thing (although both characters were created at about the same time). This cover was by my favorite Marvel artist, John Buscema, who also did the interior art on the main story from a script by the underrated Steve Gerber (who created my favorite animated hero, Thundarr The Barbarian). The story had to do with Man-Thing going berserk in New York. That's all you really need, isn't it? This issue also contains reprints from the great Atlas monster books of the 50's by such greats as Jack "King" Kirby, Don Heck, and Bob Powell. Not a bad value for 50 cents, huh?
1972 was a good year for the horror genre at the House Of Ideas. In addition to Tomb Of Dracula, Werewolf By Night also made its debut. Although not as consistently good as TOD, Werewolf By Night featured some of the early work of the great Mike Ploog, whose style was the perfect fit for the book. This particular issue, from December, 1973, features a cover by the great John Romita, Sr., who didn't do a whole lot of horror work at this time. The interior art was by Gil Kane from a script by Marv Wolfman (how appropriate). This story is also reprinted in Marvel's Essential Werewolf By Night, which came out in 2005.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
We now jump ahead to the seventies as horror books started to become popular again due to a relaxation of the Comics Code. Perhaps the finest horror book to come from this period was Marvel's Tomb Of Dracula. Running 70 issues from 1972-79, this series was groundbreaking due in large part to the art of Gene Colan. Colan's moody use of shadows and his dark line brought true chills to this series. Most of the issues were written by Marv Wolfman but this first issue was scripted by Gerry Conway with cover art by Neal Adams. The entire series has been reprinted in Marvel's Essential Tomb Of Dracula series. I highly recommend these black and white reprints. It brings Colan's art a new level of creepiness. Great stuff!!
Here we have the companion mag to Creepy, Eerie. Once again Warren produced a great horror compilation mag featuring some of the major talents of the comic book field of the 1960's. This issue, cover dated November, 1967, sports a really nice painted cover by Dan Adkins. It was swiped from the movie The Mummy's Hand. Most of the interior stories in this issue were written by Archie Goodwin with art by such stalwarts as Roy Krenkel, Jeff Jones, Tom Sutton, Johnny Craig, Joe Orlando, and Ric Estrada. The book was edited by the company's founder, Jim Warren. A very cool book from a great time for black and white horror magazines.
In 1964, Warren Publications started publishing a magazine that would change the horror genre forever. Creepy was at the forefront of the new wave of comic magazines and put Warren on the map. The coolest thing about this series was the awesome display of talent in each issue. In this issue alone, you have a stunning Frank Frazetta cover and interior art by such greats as Angelo Torres, Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Reed Crandall, Alex Toth, and Gray Morrow. The book had a definite EC feel, due to the fact that people like Torres, Williamson, and Orlando all worked for that company in their heyday. All stories in this issue were written by the great Archie Goodwin, who also edited the book. It was one of his first assignments in the comic field. From October, 1965.
Another great EC horror comic from the '50's was Vault Of Horror. Using most of the same creative talent as Tales From The Crypt, this series also did a great job scaring little kids over 50 years ago. One of the coolest things about this series and Tales From The Crypt were the narrators. Like the legendary Crypt Keeper, the Vault Keeper kept the narrative of the stories going in his own creepy way. This particular issue, from November, 1950, features an awesome cover by Johnny Craig. He also contributed the interior art on a couple of the stories inside, the others being done by Al Feldstein and "Ghastly" Graham Ingels. This issue was reprinted in Gemstone Publishing's Vault Of Horror five volume slipcase edition, which came out in 1982.
With Halloween fast approaching, I decided to post some of my favorite horror covers from the past 50 years or so. I'll start with this beauty from January, 1952. Tales From The Crypt was one of the first and best comics dealing with the macabre. Published by the lengendary EC Comics, this book thrilled and chilled many a comic reading kid of the '50's. This cover was by the very talented Wally Wood, who had a real flair for the genre. This particular issue featured five stories with great titles like "Well-Cooked Hams" and "Horror! Head...It Off" All stories in this issue were written by Al Feidstein with art by Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Jack Kamen, and "Ghastly" Graham Ingels. Unfortunately, the paranoia generated by Dr. Fredric Wertham's book Seduction Of The Innocent brought an end to great comics like these. But they still live on in the minds of those lucky enough to have read them.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Here's some more simian madness from Julie Schwartz' crazy crew from August-September, 1963. Strange Sports Stories was a series that was tried out in several issues of B&B around this time. You could tell Carmine Infantino had a good time drawing these stories. They tested his unique design capabilities to the extreme. Gorillas playing baseball is a great concept. I'd be much more interested in the sport if giant apes played. The lead off story of this issue, "Gorilla Wonders Of The Diamond", was scripted by the profilic Gardner Fox and drawn by the always great Infantino and Giella team. Murphy Anderson inked Carmine on the cover. This story was reprinted in DC Special #7 in 1970.
In the 1960's, DC Comics super editor Julius Schwartz had a theory that putting gorillas on the covers of their books made them sell better. That theory was put to the test multiple times during that decade. One of the most enduring simian characters of the time was The Flash's enemy Gorilla Grodd. The Scarlet Speedster fought the super intelligent ape several times. This issue, cover dated March 1962, was by the regular Flash team of John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella. Cover by the amazing Infantino, who had few peers in character design. The Flash's rogues gallery has stood the test of time and are remembered fondly today. This story, "Reign Of The Super Gorilla", was reprinted in DC Special #16 in 1975.
One of the coolest things Marvel Comics did in the 1970's was put out a series of black and white magazines that dealt with subject matter a little different from the normal super hero comics they put out. My favorite was Planet Of The Apes. It debuted right at the height of Ape mania in 1974. It usually consisted of two stories, one new tale and an adaptation of one of the five Ape films. This particular issue, cover dated December, 1975, featured a really nice painted cover by Bob Larkin and interior art by Tom Sutton and Rico Rival. You've gotta love the caption Ape And Human United Against Mutated Monsters. Doug Moench wrote both stories in this issue. The series was edited by the great Archie Goodwin. The series lasted 29 issues and is a great example of the kind of quality Marvel was putting in its B&W line.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
One of the most celebrated comics of all time was Warren's short lived war series Blazing Combat. It was groundbreaking for its time due to its realistic and gritty war stories. It only lasted 4 issues, but the book was noted for its breathtaking art from greats such as Frank Frazetta (who drew this gorgoeus cover), Angelo Torres, Gene Colan, Reed Crandall, Jerry Grandenetti, Alex Toth, Dan Adkins, Gray Morrow, and John Severin. The issues are somewhat hard to find today and expensive, but worth it. Many of the stories were written by Archie Goodwin, who also edited the book. It's a must for fans of the war genre, right up there with the great DC war books which were being produced at the same time. The issue is cover dated April, 1966.
One of the only comics I was actively buying the last few years was the highly entertaining Futurama Comics. It captured the insanity and comic genius of that incredibly underrated show. Edited by Bill Morrison, the book had the look and feel of the series, which is only natural since Morrison was the art director of the show. There are rumors that the show is coming back and I hope they're true, since it was one of the best written shows of the past 10 years or so.
In my mind, comics changed for the better with the publication of this fairly standard romance comic from Charlton Comics in June, 1967. With the immortal tale, The Wild Life And Adventures Of Miss Bikini Luv, the great Jim Aparo got his start in the world of comics. This story was a far cry from the dynamic Batman and Aquaman stories he would later draw for DC Comics. In fact, you can't even recognize his distinctive style in this story. He used a very cartoony style which he would rarely use again in the future, as editor Dick Giordano moved him to adventure strips like The Phantom which was a much better fit for his style. This book also contained an early Denny O'Neal story, The Swingin' Saga Of Superella, which I'm sure he wants to forget. You've gotta love those '60's groovy romance comics!
Sunday, October 08, 2006
To conclude my so called Flash trilogy of covers, I thought I'd show this classic from the Silver Age. The image of the Scarlet Speedster as a 1000 pound blog really cracks me up. The Flash was probably the most innovate comic of the Silver Age in my opinion. The creative team of Julie Schwartz, John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella always came up with interesting plots, great character designs, and beautiful art. Flash had the best rogues gallery back then with great characters like Gorilla Grood (a giant intelligent ape, what's not to love?), Captain Cold, The Trickster, Captain Boomerang, The Weather Wizard, and many more. These are some of the greatest comics of all time, not just the Silver Age. All of these stories have been reprinted in the continuing Flash Archives which are a great (and cheaper) way to get these great stories.
After the last post, I deciced to show the book that was the center of attention in that story. With a beautiful cover by E.E. Hibbard, Flash Comics #26 came out in February, 1942. There were a ton of thrills to be had in its 68 pages. In addition to the main Flash story, there were backup tales of Hawkman, Johnny Thunder, The King, Les Sparks, and The Whip. Flash Comics was one of the most popular comics of the Golden Age, with really nice art by the likes of Hibbard and the great Shelly Moldoff. I highly recommend the two volumes of Golden Age Flash archives and the Golden Age Hawkman archives to see more stories from this great series.
One of my favorite comics as a kid was this beauty from December, 1978. It had an innovative plot that impressed me greatly. It was one of the few times a comic book was an integral part of a comic book story. In the somewhat goofy plot, a comic (Flash Comics #26) has been coated with some sort of teleportation chemical and The Flash must keep it out of the hands of criminals who try to steal it at a comic convention. In a funny twist, two of the criminals dress up like Golden Age greats Green Lantern and Wildcat. The story still holds up today and is one of the funnest comics of the 1970's. Created by my favorite Flash creative team, Cary Bates, Irv Novick, and Frank McLaughlin. Cover by Al Milgrom and Dick Giordano.
One of the coolest characters in the Silver Age Of Comics was introduced with this nice Curt Swan cover in World's Finest #142. The Composite Superman had the combined powers of all the Legion Of Super Heroes and provided a formidable foe for Superman and Batman. As a little kid, I was very impressed with the character design, half-Superman and Half-Batman with a green face like Brainiac 5. I loved the Legion and I loved Swan so this was a no brainer. Written by Edmond Hamilton and pencils by Swan and inks by George Klein (part 1) and Sheldon Moldoff (part 2), this book came out in June, 1964 and was reprinted in World's Finest #223 (February, 1974) and DC Special #23 (February 1981). DC Direct also put out a beautiful action figure a couple of years ago. The sculpt looks amazingly like a Swan drawing. It's a must have figure, one of the best they've ever done.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
My favorite book by far in junior high school was Marv Wolfman and George Perez' New Teen Titans. I was absolutely blown away by Perez' clean yet very dynamic style. He reminded me of Curt Swan on steriods. The character development in the book was top notch and it kept me coming back month after month. The characters created specifically for this series, Raven, Starfire, and Cyborg were brilliant creations that fit in effortlessly with the established Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Changling. There have been two Archive editions which have reprinted the first several issues. If you like well written and drawn comics, you can't go wrong with these stories.
Another book that adapted a great Saturday morning show. It was only natural that DC would put out a book based on the very popular Super Friends. Geared toward younger readers, it provided a nice alternative to the more adult Justice League book. I certainly enjoyed both books. Cover and interior art by the super Ramona Fradon. She was one of the first female artists to break into comics and, along with Marie Severin, was the best. I love her clean, cartoony style. She's also a great lady who I've had the pleasure of meeting and getting a commission from. Her run on Aquaman in the 50's and early 60's is exemplary. It's definitely worth checking out as is the Super Friends series. It was a big part of my childhood.
I really liked the Filmation live action Saturday morning Isis show so I was pretty happy when DC got the rights to put out a comic based on the show. Although it only lasted eight issues, I thought they did a decent job with the book. Written by the talented Steve Skeates and drawn by Mike Vosburg, they gave fans like me something to bide my time until Saturday morning rolled around again. Cover by Vosburg. From February/March, 1978.
The Justice Society was the first super hero group created during the Golden Age Of Comics. Created by prolific writer Gardner Fox, the JSA appeared in issues #'s 3-57 of All Star Comics. This particular issue is an example of why the JSA was so groundbreaking for its time. This tale of religious tolerance was way ahead of its time. With art by Sheldon Moldoff, Stan Aschmeier, Joe Gallagher, and Bernard Baily, this issue was a real winner during the fall of 1944. Reprinted in All Star Archives Volume 5. This archive series is highly recommended. Volumes 0-11 reprints the entire JSA run and is a very fun read. They also give us looks at very early work by future legends Joe Kubert and Carmine Infantino. Also recommended is Roy Thomas' excellent All Star Companion from Twomorrows Publishing.
From February/March 1969 comes issue #3 of DC's fondly recalled adaptation of Ideal's seminal super hero action figure line Captain Action. CA was the first real super hero line, offering kids costumes of their favorite heroes from both DC and Marvel to put on their Captain Action figure. Besides the super heroes, they also offered Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and The Green Hornet costumes as well. The comic series was a well conceived book that unfortunately only lasted 5 issues. The sales weren't that good and DC pulled the plug almost immediately. This great Gil Kane cover was typical of the high quality of the art in this book. Gil also wrote this particular story, introducing the villain from the toy line Dr. Evil to the comic series. This is a fun series that's well worth checking out.
This is one of my favorite covers from the fondly remembered Marvel Star Wars series. The House Of Ideas aquired the rights to George Lucas' space epic before the film even came out in 1977. Editor Roy Thomas wrote the adaptation using stills and an early version of the script. With art by Howard Chaykin, the adaptation whetted SF and comics fans' apetite for the movie. This particular cover by the amazing Carmine Infantino was probably my favorite of the whole run. Infantino was a master at cover design and his abilities are quite evident here. The spacing of the characters amid the backdrop of the massive Star Destroyer are riveting. Infantino also did the interior art of this issue inked by the prolific Terry Austin. Austin's understated inks kept Carmine's unique style intact. His style was so different from what I liked as a kid that I wasn't real crazy about the art at the time. However, I really like it now. It's really different and it gives the characters a different look which I think works really well. Script by the consistently good Archie Goodwin. From September, 1978.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
For a long while in the 1960's and into the '70's, Dell Comics published several different adaptations of popular TV shows of the day. From June, 1966 to September, 1967, they put out a comic book version of one of my all time favorite shows, the great Hogan's Heroes. The creators did a pretty good job bringing the zaniness of the show to the comic page. Most of the art was by comic book veteran Sal Trapani. He did a good job combining the humor style with a little bit of WWII action. It only lasted eight issues before it was cancelled. There was a ninth issue but it was a reprint of #1. They're pretty hard to find nowadays but it's worth the effort. It's a very fun read.
Monday, October 02, 2006
I thought today I'd combine two of my favorite things, comics and Disneyland. Ever since the park opened in 1955, there have been comics celebrating Walt Disney's original (and in my opinion, only one that matters) Happiest Place On Earth. This particular issue was put out in 1965 to celebrate the ten year anniversary of the park. Most of the stories would center on the Disney characters enjoying the many fun attractions the park had to offer like the Skyway pictured on the cover. They served as good promotion for the park. I'm sure many little kids after reading about Mickey riding the Matterhorn would bug their parents until they agreed to go to the park for summer vacation. It would be cool to see a new comic devoted to the park but knowing Disney, they'd probably set it in Florida. Oh well, at least we have this beauty and others like it to show how great the original Disneyland was.