BEWARE! #3, 1973 “The Monsters are Coming”

At a recent con (Boston Comic Con – 2014), I grabbed a few comics at a bargain, and one of them happened to be an issue of the reprint series, Beware! This particular issue reprints some Golden Age material from Atlas Comics (Marvel). Some pre-code stories by greats like George Tuska, Joe Maneely, and Al Luster! The cover by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott really sets the tone for the book!

Each story contained within has a different angle, but it doesn’t interrupt the flow from front cover to back. I really enjoy these types of books, and another good one is from Yoe Books (IDW distributing), called “Haunted Horror“. It’s a great reprint series showcasing some of the early horror work from some of the best talent of that period, and quite frankly, of all time. Give it a look if you can spare the time. In the meantime, take a peek at some of the awesome work in this fantastic book!

 

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Super-Villain Team-Up #8, 1976 “Escape!”

In my first ever purchase of this title, I’ve found that not only do I love it because of its hilarious action, but also that it has Dr. Doom, and who doesn’t love Doom? I mean, he’s the quintessential villain in the Marvel Universe. Everyone must face him at one time or another, even Squirrel Girl and Power Man had  bouts with him! Doom also had another run in a certain anthology style book from Marvel in the 1970’s, and I’ll get to that in a couple of posts or so.

For now though, marvel at the work of Steve Englehart, Keith Giffen, Owen McCarron, Irv Watanabe, and others! You’ll see the quality of work this team did, and it will leave you wanting more! Some brilliant colors in this one as well, and we have Phil Rache to thank for that. Don’t miss my favorite page, where Namor beats up an elephant! Enjoy!

 

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Captain America #203, 1976 “Alamo II”

Another day, another post! And another great one from the ‘King’! No matter how many times I see an image of Captain America drawn by Jack Kirby, it still gets me pumped up about the star-spangled Avenger! It’s true, and in this adventure, Cap is searching for Falcon and Leila Taylor. He finds them, but they don’t recognize him. We then get a brawl between Cap and Falcon, and the following pages are some more Kirby magic! One splash page in particular sticks in my head, never to leave! It shows a scene of enthralled people (including Leila and Falcon), some of them sitting on a stone wall. Just the atmosphere alone is incredible!

Throw in a cowboy (Texas Jack), a fire-breathing rock monster, and the machinations of the Inquisitor, top it all off with some Kirby crackle,  and you get more awesomeness from Kirby! This second coming for him on this title was quite refreshing, and it seems as though Kirby was really letting his creative freedoms flow right out on to the pages. Just look at these pages/panels, and I doubt you’ll disagree!

 

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Captain America #195, 1975 “It’s 1984”

Any time I get the chance to grab some of the work of Jack ‘King’ Kirby at a discount, I do not hesitate. After his departure from DC, Kirby returned to Marvel, and did some great work. He wrote and drew Captain America, Black Panther, The Eternals, and more. I recently bought two issues of his Captain America run from this era (1975-1977), and can honestly say that this is trippy, but great work. It’s not that the story is something never written before (it’s basically a social commentary on racism), but the way Kirby writes and draws it, is absolutely endearing. Of all the qualities I believe Kirby had as not only an artist, but as a man, this is why I love his work so much. A man who took himself from very little and used his God-given talents to become a giant of the industry (maybe only second to Will Eisner?), and through comic book art/stories gives someone like me hope that maybe someday, I can meet such apotheosis. Thank you, ‘King’ Kirby, for being an inspiration to me and scores across this planet! Image Image (28) Image (29) Image (30) Image (31)

Comic Book Legends: An Interview with – David Michelinie!

If someone asked you who wrote the Iron Man story “Demon in a Bottle” or the first appearance of Venom in Amazing Spider-Man, would you know? OK, how about the Avengers story “The Yesterday Quest/Nights of Wundagore” or the Marvel Graphic Novel’s “Emperor Doom” and “Revenge of The Living Monolith“? Are you getting the point? Some creators, for one reason or another, get their share of credit or even more than they deserve, and some seem to get very little. David Michelinie is one of those guys that I feel gets nowhere near the credit he deserves. Just look at that list of stories above, and tell me I’m lying.

Michelinie also had a creative hand in the weddings of Superman and Lois Lane and Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson! So again, I ask, why not give this guy more credit? A quick look at any number of websites shows he has the “street cred”, so let’s stop overlooking a guy that wrote over one hundred Spider-Man stories, Action Comics, Daredevil, Jonah Hex, Swamp Thing, and so on!

I had the awesome opportunity to ask David a few question about his work over the years, and here’s what he had to say!

 

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       Billy: It seems that you really enjoyed developing the brotherly relationship between Wonder Man and the Beast. Was that something you wanted to stress/drive home with the readers?

David: There’s tremendous pressure, peril, and grief, in the life of a superhero. And this was especially true with Simon Williams, who at the time was uncomfortable and insecure in his role as Wonder Man. So I wanted to lighten things up a bit, and teaming him with the upbeat Beast seemed like a good thing for both of them. Everyone needs a friend.

 

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     Billy: The revelation of Wanda and Pietro’s lineage was a long time coming, no doubt. Did you guys (You, Gruenwald, Shooter, & Grant) script/write the story as if Django Maximoff was going to be revealed as their father or was it a ruse from the get-go?

David: I really don’t remember much regarding how all that came about. I do know that Mark Gruenwald was a big factor in generating that story line, since he knew a lot more about the Avengers’ background and history than I did.

    Billy: The Avengers title was in a bit of a flux when you came on board, as Jim Shooter had  written the book  for a while, but I think he was transitioning to EIC, correct? Was that why the book was kind of bounced around for a spell before you were the regular writer?

David: I think Jim was reluctant to give up the Avengers- he really cared about that book and enjoyed writing it. But the reality of running a major company while trying to be a full-time writer on the side finally got to him. I scripted several issues using Jim’s plots, and I think that convinced him that I would make an acceptable replacement, so I got the job.

    Billy: Transitioning to your Marvel Graphic Novels (#17 & 27); First, in the forward to MGN #17 “Revenge of the Living Monolith”, you credit Jim Owsley (Christopher Priest) for the concept of the story. It’s obvious that the two of you wanted to move that character (the Monolith) away from being just another cookie-cutter villain, and by the books end, most readers probably feel sorry for him, as opposed to thinking he’s the cold-blooded killer type. Do you feel that as a team, you guys hit the mark as fa r as making it believable? And if there’s anything you could go back and change, would you?

David: Anytime I’m assigned to write a character I try to do something new with them, something that shows a different aspect of their personality or perhaps some event in their past that has factored into their development, but of which the reader is not yet aware. And while it’s true that there are some purely evil people in this world (I’ve worked for some of them!), villains seem much more interesting if there’s something in their history that makes them sympathetic. I think what was presented as Ahmet’s (The Living Monolith) background was believable, but the final judges of that would be the readers. Second answer: Since I don’t have a time machine, I rarely think about going back and changing things.

 

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    Billy: The concept of MGN #27 “Emperor Doom” gives us a tale of a time when Doom was more of a manipulator than he is now. Was that something you thought Doom was more about as a character?

David: I loved writing Dr. Doom. He was brilliant, focused, and determined and thoroughly convinced that he was justified in his deeds and viewpoints. If manipulation was what it took to achieve his goal, then manipulation would be his tool. And he was very, very good at it.

 

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Billy: There’s a very powerful scene in this book (still speaking on Emperor Doom), where Doom proves to the Purple Man that his will can resist his powers of persuasion, and that moment solidified Doom as one of Marvel’s greatest characters. Was that something that was part of the initial script or added later ( I guess what I mean is, was that something you always wanted to do with Doom)?

David: I love that scene (image below); very powerful, very character-defining. And it was indeed part of the original plot. And as much as I’d like to take full credit for it, I honestly don’t remember if it was my idea or something suggested by Jim Shooter in our plot conferences.

 

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   Billy: Speaking on both of those graphic novels, were the artistic teams already in place when you signed on, or was it a process?

David: The plots were completed, and then the art teams were determined. And I have to say that Bob Hall, Marc Silvestri, and Geof Isherwood all did wonderful jobs.

   Billy: Moving on to Spider-Man now; Can you talk about the move to that title as the regular writer, and what it meant to you?

David: I assume you’re talking about “Amazing”, yes? Spider-Man was my favorite superhero of all time, so when Jim Owsley picked me to write Web of Spider-Man it was a genuine thrill. Getting to play with ones favorite character is probably every writers dream, but how often does that dream come true? So when I was switched over to Amazing Spider-Man, the original Spidey title and the book that got me back into reading comics when I was in college, it was very sweet icing on an already delicious cake.

    Billy: You took the symbiote from being a vehicle for Spider-Man, and turned it (basically) into his mortal enemy. Was that decision an editorial thing, or a plan concocted by the creative team (You, Mcfarlane, etc.)?

David: It was actually something that I came up with on my own. Whenever I got a chance to write a new (for me) character, I tried to figure out what makes that character unique and then I exploit it. In Peter Parker’s case, his early warning Spider-sense stood out as something unmatched in the Marvel Universe. It has saved his life countless times by warning him of danger before he could be harmed. So I wondered…what would happen if there was a villain that didn’t trigger that Spider-sense? It had already been established, in the Secret Wars story line, that the alien symbiote which had been Spider-Man’s living costume for a while didn’t activate his Spider-sense. And since Spider-Man had cast the symbiote aside, the creature was likely feeling hurt and angry about that rejection. So attaching the symbiote to a host who shared a similar hatred for the wall-crawler seemed like it would make for an interesting-and very dangerous-spider-foe. My initial origin featured a woman as the host, and I started setting the character up in a couple of teaser scenes in Web of Spider-Man, where both Peter Parker and Spider-Man had been thrown into danger by some mysterious entity that didn’t trigger the spider-sense. Then when I was switched over to Amazing Spider-Man, editor Jim Salicrup suggested introducing a new character in issue #300. He liked my symbiote idea but wanted the host to be a man. So since that really didn’t negate what I wanted to explore – I altered the origin for the plot of Amazing Spider-Man #300, and Venom was born.

    Billy: You basically wrote one hundred issues of Spidey, yet most people seem to never give you the credit you deserve. Does that bother you now or did it then? And if so, how can you turn a blind eye to it and just keep pushing forward?

David: I had the honor- or curse – of working with some very popular artists on that book: Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Mark Bagley. And I think that’s what most people remember about those issues. What they don’t often realize is that while sales rose during Todd’s run, they continued to rise with Erik and got even higher with Mark. And I have to believe that part of that was due to the fact that the characters and stories maintained a consistency: people who bought the books to read them got characters that acted and spoke the same way issue after issue, and the stories maintained a certain level of quality that readers could count on every month. People may not think of that in hindsight, and my work may be less remembered than the art, but those are stories I was very happy with, and I’m proud to have my name on them.

 

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    Billy: In issue #298, Todd McFarlane was brought in to pencil on Spidey. Was he someone you knew previously and asked for or did he lobby for the assignment?

David: I had seen some of Todd’s work for DC, but I didn’t know him or anything about him. The editor suggested Todd, I said OK, and magic happened.

    Billy: Can you talk for a bit about working with editor Jim Salicrup? I’ve heard he is one of the nicest guys around the biz.

David: My definition of a good editor is one who pays attention but keeps a loose rein, one who doesn’t try to put his/her own personal stamp on everything that crosses their desk. And Jim was like that. I would give him a synopsis of what I wanted to do over the next 3-4 issues, he’d read it and make suggestions and requests, then he’d pretty much leave me alone to write the plots and scripts. I like to think that was because he trusted me as a writer. But what whatever the reason, it gave me a great deal of freedom and that allowed me to retain my enthusiasm and, I believe, made my work better.

    Billy: With McFarlane’s departure in issue #324, Erik Larsen was brought in for the pencils. It was a seamless move from an artistic standpoint, but was it from a collaborative angle?

David: Not really. Erik hates me and my work, though I have absolutely no idea why. When Jim Salicrup suggested Erik and showed me some of his work, I thought it was a bit cartoony but was distinctive, and a distinctive look was something our readers had become accustomed to with Todd. So I said OK. Then during our run together, Erik wrote a letter to Wizard Magazine in which he called me a “clown” and called my work “stupid”. I later heard from more than one person that he was going around at conventions saying that Marvel didn’t have any good writers – when at the time the only Marvel writer he was working with was me. Like I said, I haven’t a clue as to why Erik has this seething dislike for me, but even if I felt the same way about him or his work I’d never say so in print or in public. But perhaps my idea of professional behavior has become outdated.

     Billy: You had a hand in the two biggest weddings in comic book history (Spider-Man & Superman). Can you talk about what that was like?

David: When asked to write the Spider-Man wedding, I didn’t want to do the usual super-villains-crash-the-ceremony-and-fight-the-super-hero-guests bit. So I came up with a different angle that focused more on the human side of the situation, that dealt with Peter Parker’s worries and self-doubts about whether he was doing the right thing: if he was going to be putting Mary Jane in danger, if he could still be a good husband while running off to fight bad guys all the time, etc. Jim Shooter read it, said he understood what I was trying to do but that this was going to be read by a lot of people who didn’t normally read comics, and he thought Marvel needed a simpler, more standard story that “civilians” could relate to. So I turned the plotting over to him and just scripted over his story. Many years later Jim was quoted in an interview as saying that my original plot was “inappropriate” and “lame”, a quite different-and much harsher-assessment than he’d used when talking to me personally. It was very disappointing, since in the past Jim had been someone who took the high road, who treated individuals with courtesy and respect. But I guess people change. As for the Superman wedding, I was delighted to be a part of it in a small way. I was actually given some pages of a story Curt Swan had drawn many years previously for a story that was never published. I modified that story to fit the wedding continuity and wrote dialogue to match. I’d loved Curt’s Superman stories when I was a kid, and it was a genuine honor to script over his artwork, even if it was a posthumous collaboration.

 

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    Billy: To wrap up, can you give some insight on your early years at DC writing horror stories?

David: In 1973 DC started something they called an apprenticeship program, where they’d hire would-be writers or artists to work at the DC offices while they learned their trade. It didn’t go far (I think the only person they actually hired through that program was Martin Pasko), but I sent in a sample script that, for some reason, ended up on editor Joe Orlando’s slush pile (unsolicited manuscripts). Joe’s assistant at the time, writer Michael Fleisher, read the script and sent me a note saying that I showed promise but they couldn’t work with anyone outside of the immediate New York City area. Two weeks later I had closed out my commercial writing obligations in Kentucky and had moved to New York, where I knocked on DC’s door and said “well, here I am!” I think Joe and Michael were a bit stunned, but they pretty much had to give me a chance. I worked with Michael on my first four scripts for “House of Mystery” and its kindred. Michael was not a subtle critic and actually called some of my work ” a piece of crap” while I sat on the other side of his desk. Severe, yes, but very motivating. Through massive rewriting, and by heeding Michael’s editorial advice, I was ready to work directly with Joe when Michael left his staff position to write the Little Orphan Annie newspaper strip. Michael and I ended up being good friends for many years, and I credit his uncompromising criticism with my eventual ability to write professional comic book stories.

 

I’d like to thank David for agreeing to be interviewed and for being very candid. Definitely take a look at the body of work that this man has put forth. I think you’ll have a new (or hopefully renewed) appreciation for his contributions to the industry! Once again, thank you David!

Be on the look out for more interviews with other creators from the best comic books in the history of the medium in the near future!

 

 

Sub-Mariner #70, 1974 “Namor Unchained”

Imperius Rex! The Savage Sub-Mariner is punching Man-Fish in the face! What a great cover by Mr. Gil Kane (RIP)! And to make matters worse, Man-Fish is pulling on some poor bikini-clad girl’s ponytail! Man, I miss the 1970’s. Everything nowadays is so grim and gritty, with no real fun to any of the stories. When Marvel was just beginning to scratch the surface of greatness back in the 1960’s, greats like Kirby, Romita, Heck, and Ditko, were paving incredible roads for later talents to follow. What did ensue was the Bronze Age of comics books, which gave us not only more relevant stories from a social angle, but also the weird and wonderful imaginations of a new list of incredibly gifted writers and artists that took what came before and built upon it substantially.

In this specific issue, we get a script from Marv Wolfman, pencils from George Tuska, inks by Vince Colletta, Colors by Stan Goldberg, and letters by John Costanza! Don’t forget the cover by the incomparable Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia either! This book is a great example of the awesome comics coming out at the time. There would only be two more issues of Subby after this until his revival in the Thomas & Buckler series in 1988 (another good series). Subby was a mainstay in FF and the Avengers as well though for some time. In closing, remember kids, when all else fails, if you’re being attacked by sharks, just punch them in the face!

 

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Sub-Mariner #64, 1973 “Voyage into Chaos”

Prince Namor of Atlantis was never a character that was one of my favorites. Oh, I like the character more than I dislike him, but he just never impressed me unless he was part of a team (like the Avengers). I recently grabbed a couple of back issues of Subby, and really enjoyed them. Now, granted, the writer is the awesome Steve Gerber (RIP), with art by Don Heck (RIP) (pencils), and Don Perlin (inks), so that really raised the level of the content in my opinion. You also get perennial favorites Glynis Wein on colors, and Artie Simek providing letters (and Roy Thomas editing). Again, characters are great, but the creative force behind them is what really matters.

A story involving Subby fighting racial inequality (basically), is the plot, with undersea friends and foes galore. Heck and Perlin make a great team, and you’ll agree when you see the pages below. Namor is his royal, condescending self, while the ocean backgrounds look fabulous. A quick cameo by Namorita, Namor in chains, and at the mercy of a WOMAN, nonetheless! There is also a back-up story from Gerber featuring artwork by Howard Chaykin and Joe Sinnott! And what a fantastic cover by the team of Rich Buckler and Bill Everett (RIP)!

 

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Avengers Spotlight #39, 1990 – “Cry Crusader!”

One of my all-time favorite characters, is none other than the Black Knight! I think it goes back to the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode where he guest starred. It was a tale featuring the menace of Mordred! Or maybe it’s my love of Arthurian times. Either way, the Black Knight kicks butt! A flying horse, (Valinor), and the Ebony Blade, make him quite a formidable fighter, and he’s proven his worth many times over as a member of the Avengers, or just as a solo hero.

In this awesome issue, the Black Knight gets framed for murder, and he must solve the puzzle of who is committing these murders using a sword, and wearing a cape and armor! With Roy & Dann Thomas writing, Greg Capullo on pencils, Tom Dzon inking, Bob Sharen on colors, and Joe Rosen lettering. An excellent story and solid artwork from a young Capullo (cover by Steve Lightle)! Enjoy!

 
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X-Men Classic #65 (Uncanny X-Men #161, 1982)

I just started to grab some of these X-Men reprints, and wow, are they something! I love the X-Men, and wanted to find a way to get my hands on some of their older material without breaking the bank, and this title was just the way to go. Typically, with reprint titles, Marvel stays pretty close on the cover artwork to the original work. For some reason they really went in the opposite direction with some of these books. Not that I’m complaining mind you, because I’m a big fan of the work of Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell. He really stands out with his style, but also “gets it”, when it comes to being faithful to the source material. Check out the awesome work by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Bob Wiacek, Tom Orzechowski, Glynis Wein (Oliver), and Louise Jones (Simonson)!

In this issue we see the first meeting (via flashback) between Xavier and Magneto from way back in the day! Also, we see the Brood, Gabrielle Haller, Cyclops and Storm having a power struggle, albeit a brief one, and then a battle with Xavier and Magneto on one side, and Baron Strucker and Hydra on the other!

 

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Marvel Team-Up #39, 1975 – “Any Number Can Slay!”

During the 1970’s, Marvel was bursting at the seams with creative talent. The wide array of creator ideas, titles, and characters, pushed them far above DC in the opinion of many a comic book aficionado. They leaped forward due to the fact that their characters were much more unique, the settings were in the real world, and the creative teams were newer, younger, and had fresh ideas. Just one example of all that was Marvel Team-Up.

This title was basically a book for Spider-Man to gain even more presence in the Marvel Universe, and spotlight some more minor characters as well. Whether they were heroes or villains, the book always had a different perspective that helped the characters leap off of the pages and into the reader’s minds.

This team up with Spidey and the Human Torch is no different. We see the two heroes battle alone and then together, with the threat of a multitude of villains ranging from Montana, to the Big Man, to the Sandman! Story by Bill Mantlo, art by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito (cover by John Romita Sr.), colors by Don Warfield, letters by Karen Mantlo, and edited by Marv Wolfman! Enjoy!

 

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