Frankenstein #5 (September, 1973)

Last October, we took a look at Marvel Comics’ Frankenstein #1 (Jan., 1973), the first issue of an ongoing series that kicked off with an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel of the same name.  This adaptation, written by Gary Friedrich and drawn by Mike Ploog, would run for three issues, and probably still ranks as one of the most faithful takes on Shelley’s classic work ever attempted in comic books (even if Ploog’s design for the Monster owed at least as much to Universal Studios’ Frankenstein movies of the 1930s and ’40s as it did to Shelley’s text).

As you may recall, Friedrich and Ploog retold Shelley’s story within a narrative framework set a hundred year’s after its events, as an Arctic expedition led by Captain Robert Walton IV — the namesake and great-grandson of a character from the novel — discovered the body of Victor Frankenstein’s Monster frozen in a wall of ice.  The expedition not only retrieved the Monster, but inadvertently resuscitated him, setting off a chain of events which ultimately caused the wreck of Walton’s ship and the deaths of most of his crew.  Read More

Justice League of America #107 (Sep.-Oct., 1973)

Back in June, 1973, there was very little chance that my fifteen-year-old self, upon seeing Justice League of America #107 in the spinner rack, would have passed on buying the book.  For one thing, I was following the series regularly during this era (although I’d somehow managed to miss the previous issue, #106); for another, I’d been partaking of the annual summer get-togethers between the JLA and their Earth-Two counterparts, the Justice Society of America since 1966’s iteration, and I wasn’t about to stop now.  (Indeed, I’d continue to follow the JLA-JSA team-ups even through periods when I was otherwise ignoring the JLA title, all the way up to the last one in 1985, when Crisis on Infinite Earths rang down the curtain on the tradition.)  Read More

Avengers #114 (August, 1973)

Panel from Avengers #112 (Jun., 1973). Text by Steve Englehart; art by Don Heck and Frank Bolle.

As we covered in last month’s blog post about Avengers #113, writer Steve Englehart had introduced a mystery in the previous issue, #112, by briefly bringing onstage a brand-new character, Mantis, and her unnamed, only-seen-in-shadow companion.  About all we were told about the latter character, in either his first or his second blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance (in #113) was that he had a prior association with the series’ titular super-team, and that he had strong, less-than-positive opinions about a recently departed Avenger, Hawkeye.  Not a whole lot to go on, at least in the opinion of my fifteen-year-old self… though, to be honest, I probably didn’t give the matter a whole lot of thought at the time.  After all, there were plenty of other comic books to be read back in the spring of 1973, and a caption in #113 had promised us that the next issue would bring a solution to the puzzle of this mystery man’s identity.  So, I was content to wait to see what May would bring us.

As it turned out, when Avengers #114 was released, I wouldn’t even have to pull the issue all the way up out of the spinner rack to discover the answer to the two-month-old mystery, as the cover (probably by John Romita) prominently featured both Mantis and her shadowy beau — so much so, in fact, that the tops of the couple’s heads obscured some of the lower real estate of the book’s logo.  And if I had had a moment’s confusion in trying to place the purple-costumed, mustachioed gent dominating the cover’s left half (which I’m pretty sure I didn’t), the story title blurb at the bottom would have clued me in by the time I got the comic all the way out of the aforementioned spinner rack, by letting me know that Mantis’ mysterious amour was none other than… the Swordsman!  Read More

Fear #15 (August, 1973)

Back in September of last year we took a look at Fear #11 (Dec., 1972), featuring writer Steve Gerber’s debut outing on the “Man-Thing” feature (as well as the fifth appearance overall of that feature’s titular star).  As you may remember, that story introduced two siblings, Jennifer and Andy Kale, who lived with their grandfather in a small Florida town; the pair’s ill-advised experimentation with a book of magic spells “borrowed” from Grandpa inadvertently summoned a demon, the Nether-Spawn, who was only prevented from ravaging the town by the intervention of the Man-Thing, within whose swampy habitat the young people had conducted their spell-casting.  At the tale’s end, the Nether-Spawn had been banished back to his hellish dimension by the expedient of burning the spell-book, and the Kale kids had declared their gratitude and everlasting friendship for their shambling, semi-sentient savior.  There was no indication whether Gerber would return to these characters — or to the intriguing question of what Grandpa Kale was doing with such a powerful grimoire in the first place — but the conclusion certainly left the door open for a sequel.  Read More

Captain America #164 (August, 1973)

Fifty years ago, John Romita’s cover for the topic of today’s blog post promised a certain degree of novelty; not only did it nod to the then-hot horror genre via presenting the superheroic Falcon as a werewolf, but it also heralded the debut of a new supervillain — and a Black female one at that.  (Nightshade may not have been the first such character to appear in American comics, but her particular race-gender combo made her stand out in this era, nevertheless… actually, as far as your humble blogger can tell, it still does.)

But we readers of May, 1973 couldn’t guess the full scope of the novelty awaiting us until we turned to this issue’s first page:  Read More

Phantom Stranger #26 (Aug.-Sep., 1973)

Let’s start today’s post with a bit of gushing over Michael W. Kaluta’s incredible cover for its primary subject, OK?

Back around the first half of 1973, DC Comics editor Joe Orlando seemed to have settled on a preferred “house dress” for the titles in his charge that included a solid color banner that ran behind the title logo (as well as the DC emblem, price, etc.) and took up the top third of the cover area (more or less).  Not every single issue of every Orlando title during this period followed this design model (see Jim Aparo’s cover for Phantom Stranger #24 [Mar.-Apr., 1973] for one conspicuous outlier)… but most did.  And frankly, sometimes — maybe most times — you really wished he’d let his talented cover artists (a roster that, at the time, included Bernie Wrightson, Bob Oksner, Luis Dominguez, and Nick Cardy, in addition to Kaluta and others) have the entire area of the cover to work with, instead of limiting then to the bottom two thirds or so,  Read More

Marvel Premiere #9 (July, 1973)

For artist Frank Brunner and Marvel Comics’ Doctor Strange, the third time around would prove to be the proverbial charm.

As we’ve covered in previous posts, Brunner first brush with the Dr. Strange feature came with Marvel Premiere #4, for which he supplied finishes to pencilled art (mostly just layouts) by Barry Windsor-Smith.  He returned four months later with Marvel Premiere #6, where his complete pencils were inked by Sal Buscema.  But unhappy with writer Gardner Fox’s scripts, as well as with the overall H.P. Lovecraft-by-way-of-Robert E. Howard “cosmic horror” direction of the series (a direction we should note had been inaugurated by plotter-editor Roy Thomas in issue #4, and then continued by Fox), the young artist left again after only a single issue.  Read More

House of Secrets #109 (July, 1973)

Back in July, 2020, I wrote a post about the 188th issue of DC Comics’ House of Mystery, an issue notable for featuring one of the very first comic-book stories drawn by the Filipino-born artist Tony DeZuñiga to be published in the United States.   As we discussed in that post, DeZuñiga‘s advent at DC in 1970 would ultimately prove highly auspicious — not only for his own individual career, but also for the direction of the whole field of American comics over the next decade or so.  Read More

Dracula Lives #2 (July, 1973)

As was noted in last Saturday’s blog post, the date of April 17, 1973 saw Marvel Comics release not just one, but two different periodical issues devoted to the exploits of the world’s most famous vampire.  But while the color-comics format Tomb of Dracula #10, featuring the debut of Blade, is probably much better known to contemporary comics fans, I’m pretty sure that, back in the day, my fifteen-year-old self was at least as jazzed by the arrival of its black-and-white companion publication, Dracula Lives #2… and probably more so.  Read More