You know, Marvel may have never quite licked the horror/mystery/fantasy/science fiction/what-have-you anthology format during the Bronze Age of Comics — at least not in the color comics arena — but you’ve got to give them points for trying. From 1969 to 1975, the publisher launched at least sixteen titles that can be grouped within that admittedly broad category (more, if you include all the title changes). It’s quite the bewildering array of funnybooks to try to get a handle on half a century later, even if you were buying and reading Marvels all through the era (as your humble blogger indeed was). Trying to account for all those Loose Creatures and Dwelling Monsters, not to mention the Shadowy Towers and Crypts and the Chambers offering you a choice of either Darkness or Chills, can feel like a real Journey into Mystery at times; honestly, it can be hard to know if you’re coming or going. Or Prowling or Roaming, if you catch my drift.
But never Fear, faithful reader — Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books is here to help. While I can’t promise you’ll possess a comprehensive understanding of all the varied aspects of this little chapter in comics history by the time you finish reading this post, I believe that I can at least relieve you of feeling like you’re trapped within a Tomb of Darkness, informationally speaking. Something like that, anyway. At least for the first couple of years of the phenomenon.
Our tale begins in the summer of 1969, when Marvel released the first issues of two new series, one month apart. Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness were both clear attempts on Marvel’s part to emulate what rival DC Comics was doing with such anthology titles as House of Mystery, Tales of the Unexpected, and Witching Hour — all of which had in recent months transitioned into (or in the latter case, debuted with) a “horror-lite” (i.e., horror that could pass the restrictive guidelines of the Comics Code Authority) anthology format, and found success in doing so. Both titles started strong out of the gate, with early issues featuring artwork by some of the same notable talents who also frequently appeared in DC’s books, such as Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, and Wally Wood, as well as some that didn’t, like Jack Kirby, Barry Windsor-Smith and Jim Steranko. Though there was some tinkering with the books’ format early on — a couple of traditional “horror hosts” named Digger and Headstone P. Gravely were ditched after the first couple of issues, to be replaced by the novel device of having one of a given story’s creators introduce their tale — they seemed to find their groove relatively quickly, relying on mostly original material supplemented by the occasional adaptation of a work by a “classic” horror writer like Poe or Lovecraft. When Tower of Shadows #1’s “At the Stroke of Midnight”, written as well as drawn by Steranko, won the 1969 Alley Award for Best Feature Story, it seemed to signify that these books were going to be contenders — and that Marvel had entered the “mystery” anthology field to stay.
A few months after the debuts of these series, in October, 1969, Marvel brought forth Where Monsters Dwell, an all-reprint title presenting stories drawn from the archives of the publisher’s late ’50s-early ’60s “Atlas era”. It was joined some six months later by a companion series, Where Creatures Roam, that featured the exact same kind of material — i.e., stand-alone tales about monsters, usually really big ones, most often drawn by Jack Kirby.
It’s doubtful that many readers would have confused the two new “monster” comics with the two “mystery” ones that preceded them (my younger self certainly never did). Besides being all-reprint, the stories in the monster books were usually based on some sort of at least vaguely science-fictional premise, whereas those in the mystery titles trafficked more in the supernatural. Certainly, they all had more in common with each other than they did with Marvel’s romance or Western titles, simply by virtue of being “scary” comics, but the line between them still seemed pretty clear.
That boundary began to become a little fuzzier around the spring of 1970, as the sixth issues of both Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness (both of which were published bi-monthly) each included a single reprinted story among their new offerings. Over the next few issues of both titles, more and more space was given over to such reprints (which, like those in Where Monsters Dwell and Where Creatures Roam, were all drawn from Marvel’s ’50s and ’60s archives), until each issue featured only one new story amongst the vintage material.* Finally came the name changes, as Tower of Shadows became Creatures on the Loose with its 10th issue, and Chamber of Darkness became Monsters on the Prowl with its 9th. There was still a difference between these books and the all-reprint monster comics, in that some new material continued to appear in the renamed anthologies. But you couldn’t tell the difference from the comics’ titles, and often not from their covers, either.
What took the wind out of the sails of Marvel’s mystery anthologies so quickly, after they’d started off so well? In a 2001 interview for Comic Book Artist #13, Roy Thomas — an associate editor at Marvel at the time, as well as one of the publisher’s primary writers — offered a few thoughts on the subject:
From the very beginning I don’t think sales were that great, and I don’t believe there was the commitment to stick around and do it, because they were so much trouble compared to the super-hero books, having three different sets of writers and artists every issue, as opposed to one. We weren’t really geared for it, because we didn’t have a big editorial staff, like DC. Stan [Lee] and I were editing everything, and the writers were editing what they did, and we had a few assistant editors that didn’t really have any authority… that was about it. We didn’t have the right kind of a set-up at the time to make a hit of those books.
While Thomas’s comments don’t address this point specifically, it should be obvious that as well as taking up a lot of time editorially, the all-new mystery anthologies would have been more expensive to produce than the all-reprint monster titles, simply because the contents of the latter had already been paid for. If the sales were at all comparable between the two categories of comics, then it may well have seemed financially prudent to convert the mystery books into clones of the monster ones, and burn off whatever inventory of new material they’d already acquired over the course of multiple issues, one story at a time.
Which is more or less what happened with both Creatures on the Loose and Monsters on the Prowl, at least at first. Though the first CotL (issue #10) is notable for cover-featuring a new story — and not just any new story, but rather Marvel’s first tale of King Kull (pulp fantasy writer Robert E; Howard’s second best-known barbarian hero, after Conan) — the following issues of CotL gave pride of cover placement to one of the Atlas reprints included inside, as did MotP from the very first issue released under its new name (#9). Such remained the state of affairs until December, 1971, when the release of Creatures on the Loose #16 presented a new variation on the theme; not only was the story spotlighted on the cover new, but it was the first installment of a new continuing feature.
“Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars” was (rather loosely) based on an obscure 1905 novel by Edwin Lester Arnold that predated (and possibly inspired) the much better known A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs by twelve years. Marvel’s energetic version, as conceived and launched by Roy Thomas with one of his favorite artistic collaborators, Gil Kane, updated the setting to the present day, and took a number of other liberties with its source material as well; it’s probably fair to say that both creators would probably have rather been working on an adaptation of Burroughs’ John Carter, but that license had just been acquired by DC Comics — still, Marvel at least had the satisfaction of getting their own sword-and-planet strip into print a couple of months ahead of DC, whose first Carter installment would appear as a backup feature in Tarzan #207, published in February, 1972.
The brand-new “Gullivar” feature weighed in at 10 pages, which left enough room for two reprinted stories of the sort the title has already been presenting. (In a sense, the new format was a throwback to the early-’60s incarnations of such Marvel titles as Journey into Mystery, Tales of Suspense, and Tales to Astonish, in which lead stories featuring Thor, Iron Man, and Ant-Man, respectively, were supplemented by a couple of one-off tales in each issue; although of course in the earlier iteration, all the stories were new ones.) This basic format of new-lead-feature-plus-old-backup(s) would remain in place from this point forward, almost all the way to the title’s demise with issue #37 (Sep., 1975) — though the lead feature itself would change, and more than once.
One month after the release of Creatures on the Loose #16, its companion title moved to this format as well — though, as it turned out, only for a single issue. Which brings us at last to the individual comic book you assumed you’d be reading about when you first started in on this post, almost 1,700 words ago: Monsters on the Prowl #16.
As noted earlier, King Kull had made his Marvel Comics debut in Creatures on the Loose #10, published in December, 1970. That first outing, a 7-page adaptation by Thomas and Bernie Wrightson of the Robert E. Howard short story “The Skull of Silence”, had been followed in March, 1971 by the first issue of Kull the Conqueror, for which Wrightson was succeeded on the creative team by artists Ross Andru and Wally Wood; the Thomas-Andru-Wood line-up only lasted one issue, however, as the second bi-monthly issue found both Andru and Wood gone, replaced by the Severin siblings, Marie (pencils) and John (inks). The third time appeared to be the charm, as with Thomas continuing as writer, “Kull” at last seemed to have found a creative combo with legs — though, at least for a while, it seemed that they’d been cut off at the knees, as Kull the Conqueror found itself conquered by the falling ax of cancellation after only two issues.
Roy Thomas wasn’t quite ready to let the Atlantean usurper of the throne of Valusia recede back into the mists of his imagined antediluvian age, however, as evidenced by the fact that when Conan the Barbarian briefly went to a 25-cent, giant-sized format in the summer of 1971, Thomas put together a five-page adaptation of a poem by Howard featuring Kull, “The King and the Oak”, which was then illustrated by the Severins. This piece ran in the 10th issue of Conan as a backup, with the promise of more Kull to come; but the only other issue of Conan to appear in this format, #11, contained only a single extra-length story starring the title character — and with the return to a 20-cent, standard-length format with #12, Kull once more became a king without a comic to call home.
Just half a year later, however, a retooled Monsters on the Prowl offered the opportunity for the monarch’s return. And not only was King Kull “back by popular demand!!”, as #16’s John Severin-drawn cover breathlessly proclaimed — but the whole creative team (including both Severins, as well as Roy Thomas) was back as well:
“Death to the serpents who walk like men!” Kull the Conqueror #2 had featured an adaptation of Howard’s short story “The Shadow Kingdom”, which ended with Kull vowing to hunt down the Serpent Men who have infiltrated his court: “– giving no rest, no quarter — till all be slain — and their power be broken!” While Howard himself never told the story of what happened next, Thomas and the Serverins have clearly determined to do just that.
Our storytellers here offer a quick two-panel summation of the events of “The Shadow Kingdom”, and then…
The Severins’ work is terrific throughout the short but exciting sequence featuring the “swamp-dragon” (drawn by them as a plesiosaur); as usual, the combination of Marie’s fluid compositions and John’s meticulous finishes yields a result that exceeds the sum of its individually impressive parts.
“– but if I am truly enchanted, I need this armor no longer.” After stripping down to basic barbarian wear, Kull decides that he should thus proceed alone, as his “magic charm” may not extend to his companions…
Plenty of contemporary fantasy fans who may have never even heard of King Kull are likely to recognize the name of Thulsa Doom, thanks to the version of the character played by James Earl Jones in John Milius’ 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie. In January, 1972, however, you’d have had to have some familiarity with Howard’s Kull stories for the moniker to ring any kind of bell.
The story jumps forward to a short time later, as Kull, Brule, the Red Slayers, and their new acquaintance all watch the temple burn from across the river. (I guess we’ll have to assume that the guys built another raft to replace the one destroyed by the swamp-dragon, since our storytellers don’t say.) Kull finally makes introductions, and Brule says he’s heard of Thulsa Doom prior to this — though those “fearful whispers” came from “the inhuman wastes to the south“, and not from Grondar, whence Doom claims to hail. But Doom blows the Pict’s suspicions off: “The rain grows cold, Kull — should we not return to your City of Wonders?”
And there, after ten pages, our episode ends. Even given the abbreviated length, the pacing seems rather off — after the exciting fight with the swamp-dragon on pages 4 and 5, there’s not much tension on hand; and to the extent that the encounter with Thulsa Doom represents a climax, it’s a rather underwhelming one (despite the clear sense of foreboding that closes the installment — really, could it be more obvious that Kull has made a ginormous mistake in welcoming Mr. Doom as his royal guest?).
As it turns out, there’s a good reason for the uneven pacing; as would be explained on the letters page of Kull the Conqueror #4, some months in the future, the Severins had drawn the first eight pages quite a while earlier, thinking they were working on Kull #3; when that title was cancelled after #2, those pages had gone into a drawer, there to stay until the decision was made to bring back the king as a half-book feature in Monsters on the Prowl, at which point the Severins drew the last two pages of the installment. In other words, “The Forbidden Swamp” hadn’t originally been meant to stand on its own, not even as one chapter of a larger story — which helps explain why it doesn’t quite make for a fully satisfying one.
Still, back in January, 1972, I doubt that my fourteen-year-old self was all that concerned about pacing issues; I liked King Kull, and was simply happy to have him back, under whatever circumstances. If that meant ten pages every two months, so be it.
Of course, that’s not how things actually turned out. But more about that in a bit. First, there’s MotP #16’s two reprinted tales to have a look at…
“Where Walks the Ghost” initially appeared in Journey into Mystery #68 (May, 1961); it bears no scripting credits in either presentation, but is signed by the artist, Steve Ditko (whose work would of course be unmistakable even if it wasn’t signed).
The “stuff” that Big Monk McGak has stored with his stolen loot is a fake moustache and beard. Wearing this disguise, he visits a small town real estate agent names Zero, and asks whether the man has any haunted houses to rent. “Well, I do have one!” Mr. Zero reluctantly admits. “Everyone’s scared to go near it!… It has a genuine ghost, you know!” “Swell, I’ll take it!” McGak enthusiastically responds.
The terrified McGak flees the house — and then hails down a police car that happens to be cruising by at just that moment. Of course, the cops immediately recognize the fugitive…
The conclusion of “Where Walls the Ghost” is likely to leave the thoughtful reader with a couple of basic questions, e.g.: How could a ghost run a real estate office? And why would he want to in the first place? Best not to dwell on such conundrums, says your humble blogger; rather, just sit back and enjoy Ditko’s fine artwork.
Our comic’s second reprint (and final feature) comes from Strange Tales #99 (Aug., 1962):
Like the previous story, this one bears the name of its artists — in this case, that’s penciller Jack Kirby and inker Dick Ayers — but no writing credits. The Grand Comics Database offers both Stan Lee and Stan’s brother Larry Lieber as likely candidates, but no one really knows.
But, as you might have already guessed (from our story’s title and opening splash panel, if naught else), Philip Morgan hasn’t been able to bring himself to destroy all his robots. He’s spared one single unit, whom he plans to hide safely underground until, as he explains to the robot, “mankind no longer fears you!”
I have to say, I’m not quite sure why the aliens are so certain that Morgan’s robots, whom we’ve only seen cleaning house and directing traffic, are going to be the key to conquering Earth. But, hey, they’re the ones who’ve mastered interplanetary travel, so what do I know?
It turns out that mere ropes can’t hold Mr. Morgan’s monster, so the aliens upgrade to chains. This goes somewhat better, but getting him out of his bunker is still much harder than they’d anticipated…
Yeah, you kind of get the feeling that these alien invaders didn’t think their plan through all that well. But at least they have a way of blowing themselves up without leaving the slightest trace, or else our story’s ending (coming up on the very next page) wouldn’t work..
The Misunderstood Monster and the Unacknowledged Savior may be hoary old tropes, but there’s a reason for that, which is that they work. Even if you’ve read dozens of stories with similar endings to this one (and even in spite of the clunky plot machinations along the way), you’re likely to find the fate of Philip Morgan’s creation poignant. (Assuming you have a heart, that is.)
Monsters on the Prowl #16 finishes up with a letters column — a feature which hadn’t been seen in the title since its Chamber of Darkness days. This first (and to the best of my knowledge, also the last) installment of “Monsters Mail Box” features a full page of fan missives and editorial responses… all about Kull the Conqueror #2.
The very existence of such a lettercol seemed to indicate that fans should expect MotP to remain Kull’s home for some time to come — but ,when the 17th issue of the series rolled around in March, the Conqueror was nowhere to be found. Rather, the book was back to an all-anthology, reprint-centric status, with no hint of a continuing feature (which is pretty much how things would remain for the rest of the title’s five-year run, all the way up to issue #30 in July, 1974).**
Not to worry about King Kull, though. April would find him ensconced back in his very own title, as Kull the Conqueror #3 hit the stands, a mere eleven months after the preceding issue. Within its pages, Thomas and the Severins picked up the narrative thread of their Thulsa Doom storyline from MotP #16 without missing a beat; and from there, we were off to the races. Be sure and check this space in three months’ time, when we’ll have a lot more to say about that particular comic book.
As for Marvel’s foray into horror/mystery/fantasy/science fiction/what-have-you anthologies, the first wave finally petered out with the last of the old Tower of Shadows/Chamber of Darkness inventory material finally seeing print around this same time. According to David A. Roach’s article “Shadows & the Darkness” (Comic Book Artist #13 [May, 2001]), the very last of these tales was “Dead Ringer”, written by Mimi Gold and drawn by Rich Buckler; it appeared in Where Monsters Dwell #15 (May, 1972), ironically making the point that, by this time, there was no longer any real difference between the all-new anthology titles Marvel had launched in summer, 1969, and the monster reprint books they’d debuted that fall.
But that accounts only for the first wave. The second wave of anthologies wouldn’t actually get going until the summer of 1972, and while its story shares a lot of the same major beats with that of the first, it has its own interesting wrinkles, as well — and so, we’ll have more to say about that next batch of books, some months down the line. I hope to see you then.
*I’ve seen it suggested that Marvel stepped up their reprinting program specifically in response to Jack Kirby’s leaving the company for DC in 1970, wanting to counter their former star creator’s new output by flooding the market with repackagings of his old stuff; that may be true, but it should be noted that the first issues of the two original reprint titles, Where Monsters Dwell and Where Creatures Roam, had both either hit stands or were in production before Kirby announced his departure in the spring of that year.
**Ironically, the reprinted story featured on the cover of MotP #17 did eventually inspire an all-new continuing strip — “It, the Living Colossus” — but that short-lived strip would set up shop in Astonishing Tales, rather than in Monsters on the Prowl.
Monster books were never my thing, and even once I began to embrace the genre in college, it was in the form of movies and books, not comics. Still, I did like me some sword and sorcery and was a huge fan of Conan, so I’m sorta’ surprised I missed this one, especially since Kull was on the cover.
Say what you will about Thomas being one of Marvel’s most profligate writers and editors, the fact that he has his fingers in almost every pie Marvel bakes led to a sense of continuity that no one else could come close to. The idea that the story from Kull #2 could continue in MotP #16 and then pick up again in Kull #3 when the book was saved from cancellation jail is a feat of heavy-lifting worthy of Kull himself. I’m not sure the over-all story was worth it (let’s face it, a lot of these Sword and Sorcery stories were awfully similar to one another over the years), but kudos to Roy for pulling it off.
As for the art, the Severins were great journeymen artists who worked very well together as a team. They may not have been as dynamic or distinctive as say, Kane or Adams or Kirby, but they were solid and you could always count on them to do a good job in an interesting, if not more mundane way.I don’t remember this story from fifty years ago, but I enjoyed reading it today.
As for the reprints, I’m not a big reprint fan, but if you’re gonna have reprints, reprints from Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby are definitely the way to go. Both stories were too short and lacking in the detail needed to really get them to make sense, but it was fun to see an earlier, less developed look at that distinctive artwork. Of course, since I’m reading a lot of this stuff now for the first time, I suppose ALL of them are reprints to me, but I’m enjoying them anyway. Thanks, Alan.
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Rather fascinating tidbits about the history of those mags, Alan! I remember getting quite a few of those mags when I was as young as 8, the new story that stuck in my memory the most being Bernie Wrightson’s “Gargoyle Every Night”. I also read some of the DC fare, which I rather liked too, although I didn’t get any of them regularly. To the best of my knowledge, several of the DC anthology horror anthology titles had fairly good runs, of near or over 100 issues, while I don’t think any of the Marvel ones started in the late Silver Age/early Bronze Age even made it to 40 issues. Maybe another aspect was a bit of the funnybook tribalism and expectations of Marvel vs. DC fare, mainly in that although just a decade earlier, DC had ruled the roost on superhero fare and Marvel’s main schtick outside of cowboy heroes was the big monsters/alien invaders/weird twist tales, by 1972 Marvel had taken the lead in superhero fare, particularly with complex, multi-issue stories, and while DC still had plenty of superhero comics, most were still one-issue stories and I think by 1969 they’d already built a good reputation for reasonably compelling short eerie horror fare, mostly under editor Joe Orlando, attractive enough for kids who couldn’t get the Warren horror magazines and often with bits of sly humor, in the old EC tradition. Marvel would have had to work much harder to compete with DC’s lead but as per your excerpts of Roy Thomas’ comments, for lack of organization & personnel and overall finances, Marvel just couldn’t do it.
But then, Marvel did somewhat better with horror/supernatural series featuring main protagonists, mainly Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing and Ghost Rider (which generally straddled the line between horror/supernatural and standard super-hero hi-jinks). Of course, none of those made it to 100 issues, with only ToD & Ghost Rider even getting up to over 70 issues. But then there was the Hulk, by far the most successful mix of monster & superhero fare. And particularly in the Trimpe era, Hulk faced off against a bunch of other monsters and aliens that weren’t all that different from those drawn mainly by Kirby & Ditko in those old stories being reprinted in all the new monster & creature mags. And Gerber even made use of a few of the misfit humans also featured in those reprints to conjure up the nefarious Headmen to take on the Defenders.
As to Kull, I only ever got a few comics featuring him, but certainly the Severins’ art was wonderful.
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Too bad you couldn’t include a flow chart with this blog post to track all of those title changes and Kull’s path from one series to another!
Seriously, that artwork by Marie & John Severin is absolutely gorgeous! Both of them were such great, underrated talents, and when they collaborated together it was magical. Have these Kull stories ever been collected by Marvel or anyone else?
By the way, it’s generally agreed that the character James Earl Jones played in the Conan the Barbarian movie is the evil wizard Thoth-Amon in all but name, and that he was probably called Thulsa Doom by the filmmakers because it was a cooler-sounding villain name.
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“Too bad you couldn’t include a flow chart with this blog post to track all of those title changes and Kull’s path from one series to another!”
Actually, Ben, I did create a Google Sheet to help me keep up with which books started and ended when, changed titles, etc.. No way I could keep all this stuff in my head!
Dark Horse collected all the Marvel Kull material in a series of collections (for which I believe they relied on the original coloring, unlike their Conan trades), and Marvel has released several HC omnibuses since they got the R. E. Howard license back a couple of years ago. Looks like the one with the Severins’ work came out just this past November. https://www.amazon.com/Kull-Destroyer-Original-Marvel-Omnibus/dp/1302929194/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1QFHKA6ZCUZ5Y&keywords=kull+the+conqueror+omnibus&qid=1643483345&sprefix=kull+the+conqueror+omnibus%2Caps%2C79&sr=8-2
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Thanks for the information. I’ll see if I can find any of these for an affordable price.
I hope you’ll be reviewing more issues of Kull in the future.
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I definitely will, Ben! Also, you may be interested in David MacDonald-Ball’s review of the Kull the Destroyer Omnibus, elsewhere in this comments section.
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Actually, there’s a big chunk of Howard’s Kull stories in Milius’ CONAN THE BARBARIAN movie, including an unbilled cameo by Kull himself (he’s the corpse Conan finds in the crypt and takes the sword from- although there’s no way the film can come out and say it, the script, production materials, and even merchandizing all refer to it as “the Atlantean sword”). But making the film’s Doom the last of the Serpent Men identifies him clearly with the Hull stories. For that matter, the “Origin story” the movie gives Conan has him becoming a slave and later a gladiator, unlike Howard’s Conan, but very much like Kull- as is giving Conan a loyal sidekick.
You’d have to ask John Milius (or Oliver Stone, who also worked on the script) why they put these elements in, but I suspect that, since they were planning sequels, they felt it would free them up to use Thoth-Amon in future installments. (And indeed, a version of Thoth-Amon does show up in the one sequel they did make, CONAN THE DESTROYER)
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I treated myself to the “Kull the Destroyer” omnibus for Christmas and am slowly making my way through it, savouring each page. I’ve previously read some of its contents over the years, but largely as black and white reprints for the UK market; experiencing those Severin issues in their colour format has been a real pleasure.
I should also mention that this is the second of three Kull omnibuses – I have yet to purchase the third – and both those that I have read contain a thoroughly readable foreword by Roy Thomas explaining King Kull’s distinctly chequered publishing history under the Marvel banner.
Like all Omnibus editions they are not cheap – and price is no guarantee of quality – but if you want to experience Kull in a graphic form, then it is probably worth making the investment.
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My introduction to the golden and early silver age Kirby and Ditko giant monster material was in these ’70s reprints. I purchased Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness for Steranko, Adams, Wrightson, Wood, Smith. etc. It is amazing how many other titles they ran like it, such as Chamber of Chills, Crypt of Shadows, Worlds Unknown, and so on. Saw Brunner, Tom Palmer, Buscema, and others doing short story adaptations in some of those.
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I remember being very excited when “Tower of Shadows” and “Chamber of Darkness” came out in 1969 because I really enjoyed all of the D.C. “mystery” (read: horror) offerings and even enjoyed the Charlton comics anthology (I can’t remember the name) hosted by Mr. Dedd. I figured that Marvel was bound to do a bang-up job as well. However, while I was very pleased with those early stories, I soon became vexed (although that was not a word I used back then) with the reprints, and I never was into the monster stories (at least without superheroes present). Also, and I realize people will “tsk tsk” me for this, but I really dislike Steve Ditko’s artwork with the exception of Dr. Strange and even there I liked other artists’ renditions of that book better. As a result, by mid 1970, I was getting my mystery (read: horror) exclusively from D.C. and Charlton.
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Exception: I loved the Creeper series in the 1960s.
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Ditko did some fine work in ink wash for Warren in Creepy and Eerie after he left Marvel in 1966. The first 17 issues of Creepy and the first 12 of Eerie were superb, as were all four of the short-lived Blazing Combat magazine.
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Ditko’s stuff isn’t as pretty as other artists, but I think his storytelling and compositions are first rate and, like Kirby, it was his creativity and innovative approach to comics that was his greatest talent.
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The Severin siblings Kull stories are some of my favorite comics ever, up there with the best of Marvel’s Conan in my book.
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Late, but Larry Lieber revealed some years ago that as far as these early 60s monster/scifi/fantasy stories went, if there was no signature by Stan on the first page, it was scripted by him based on synopses written by Stan. His earlier scripts often got substantial rewrites by Stan, but a somewhat later one like Mister Morgan’s Monster is most likely at least almost pure Larry.
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