Conan the Barbarian #25 (April, 1973)

In January, 1973, the cover of Conan the Barbarian #25 — a collaboration between Gil Kane and Ralph Reese — hardly gave any hint of the enormous artistic shift this issue represented for Marvel Comics’ award-winning series.  After all, Kane had pencilled four Conan covers prior to this one, and while two of those had graced issues that also featured Kane art on the inside (the first of those, #17, also happened to have been inked by Reese), the other two — including the most recent one, for issue #23 — had fronted stories drawn by the title’s original and primary regular artist, Barry Windsor-Smith.

So, if you were a regular Conan reader who’d somehow managed to miss issue #24 (and if you were, you have my sympathies), you may well have been startled to open #25 to its first page to see that the story had been drawn by a penciller previously unseen in these pages (though his name and work were hardly unfamiliar to Marvel fans)… namely, John Buscema:  Read More

Tomb of Dracula #7 (March, 1973)

Calendar-specific note for anyone reading this blog post on or soon after its original date of publication:  No, your humble blogger hasn’t gotten his holidays mixed up.  But I’m at the mercy not only of what comics were published a half century ago this month, but also of which comics my younger self actually bought… and my December, 1972 haul was decidedly light on seasonally appropriate fare.  On the other hand, Tomb of Dracula #7 does at least have snow in it, so maybe that counts for something.  And now, on to our regularly scheduled fifty year old comic book…

In December, 1972, a little over a year since its debut, Marvel Comics’ Tomb of Dracula had seen six issues delivered to stands — a run of stories which, despite having been drawn by a single artist, had been written by three different authors (five, if you count plotting contributions made to the first issue by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas).  That sort of creative churn generally didn’t bode well for the long-term health of an ongoing series; but for ToD, the fourth attempt at finding a regular writer for the book would prove to be the charm, as Marv Wolfman came on board with issue #7 — and then remained at the helm for the next sixty-three issues, or (to put it another way) the next six-and-a-half years.  Read More

Kull the Conqueror #7 (March, 1973)

Back in April, we took a look at the third issue of Marvel Comics’ Kull the Conqueror, featuring the titular hero’s first all-out battle against the undead sorcerer Thulsa Doom (a character who’d actually been introduced in another comic published a few months previously, Monsters on the Prowl #16).  Today, we’ll be examining Kull #7, in which the barbarian king of Valusia meets his evil arch-foe again… for the first time.

That seemingly paradoxical statement refers to the fact that this comic book features an adaptation of the short story “Delcardes’ Cat” — the first and only story by Kull’s creator, the pulp writer Robert E. Howard, in which the skull-headed villain ever makes an appearance.  Oddly enough, Howard only seems to have come up with the idea for Thulsa Doom well into the story, requiring him to go back and write another version in which the baddie gets referred to as a known threat a few times early on, just so that he doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere in the tale’s final scenes (which, as we’ll see soon enough, he kind of does anyway).  Even so, Howard wasn’t able to sell the story during his all-too-brief lifetime; like most (though not all) of his Kull stories, the tale remained unpublished as of the author’s death in 1936, not seeing print until Lancer Books released its paperback collection, King Kull, in 1969.

Got all that?  Great!  Now, on with our comic…  Read More

Conan the Barbarian #24 (March, 1973)

In December, 1972, Marvel Comics published the final issue of Conan the Barbarian drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith.  Again.

The young British artist’s first departure from the book had come just ten months earlier, with Conan #15.  But after a mere three issues away (the first of which in fact reprinted earlier work by Windsor-Smith), he was back on the book. reuniting with writer Roy Thomas on Conan #19 to launch an ambitious new multi-issue storyline, the “Hyrkanian War” epic.  Read More

Defenders #4 (February, 1973)

Behind an attention-grabbing cover pencilled by John Buscema from a rough layout by Jim Starlin (and inked by Frank Giacoia), the Defenders creative team of writer Steve Englehart, penciller Sal Buscema, and inker Frank McLaughlin began this latest installment of the super-team’s continuing adventures right where the previous one had left off.

It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a happy scene…  Read More

Fantastic Four #131 (February, 1973)

Readers of our Avengers #105 post back in July may recall how that issue’s plot — the first from the title’s brand new writer, Steve Englehart — concerned the team’s search for their missing member Quicksilver, who’d disappeared towards the end of the previous issue.  Following the inconclusive resolution to their efforts in that tale, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would continue their quest for the mutant speedster for months to come.  But, surprisingly — well, it surprised me, back in November, 1972 — when Pietro Maximoff was finally “found”, it didn’t happen in the pages of Avengers; instead, Quicksilver resurfaced in, of all things, an issue of Fantastic Four — which, as it happened, was the new super-team scripting gig of Roy Thomas, the man who’d written Avengers for the last five-plus years prior to Englehart taking over, and thus the guy who’d launched the whole “where is Pietro?” mystery in the first place.  From a creative standpoint, it made a certain kind of sense that Thomas would be the one to ultimately wrap things up; but in terms of the ongoing mega-story of the Marvel Universe, it seemed to come out of nowhere.  How did Quicksilver ever manage to end up in the Himalayan homeland of the Inhumans, the Great Refuge?  And why the heck was he fighting the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Johnny Storm? Read More

Conan the Barbarian #23 (February, 1973)

Gil Kane’s cover for Conan the Barbarian #23 is a fine piece of work.  Nothing to complain about here.  I mean, it’s Gil Kane, right?

That said, I’ve always regretted that the story it illustrates, “The Shadow of the Vulture!”, wasn’t published under the cover that Barry Windsor-Smith had originally drawn for it…  Read More

Frankenstein #1 (January, 1973)

In October, 1972, the debut of Marvel Comics’ new title Frankenstein — or, if you prefer, The Monster of Frankenstein, as it says on the cover — is unlikely to have come as a surprise to anyone.  Given the recent relaxing of the Comics Code Authority’s rules regarding the depiction of horror, as well as the subsequent launch by Marvel of two series featuring (or at least inspired by) the other members of Universal Pictures’ classic trinity of monsters — i.e., Dracula and the Wolfman — the four-color advent of a Marvel version of Victor Frankenstein’s famous creation must have seemed all but inevitable to most observers.  Read More

Werewolf by Night #3 (January, 1973)

Back in September of last year, we took a look at Marvel Spotlight #2 (Feb., 1972), the comic book in which the feature “Werewolf by Night” made its debut.  That issue introduced readers to Jack Russell, a modern Los Angeles teenager who, on his eighteenth birthday, made the very unwelcome discovery that he’d inherited the curse of lycanthropy from his late father, who’d been a baron in some unnamed European locale (eventually revealed to be — where else? — Transylvania) before being slain by silver bullets.  We also met Jack’s younger sister, Lissa — who might share his curse — as well as his stepfather, Philip, whom both we and Jack were led to suspect by the end of this premiere episode might well be responsible for the death of Jack and Lissa’s mother, Laura, in an automobile accident.

Most of the key concepts, then, as well as the characters, that would drive storylines not only through this then-new feature’s three-issue run in Marvel Spotlight, but into the earliest issues of its own title as well, can be found in its first installment, as scripted by Gerry Conway (from a plot by Roy and Jean Thomas) and drawn by Mike Ploog.  But there was one key ingredient to the series’ early continuity that wouldn’t be mentioned until MS #3, and wouldn’t make an on-panel appearance until issue #4.  This ingredient was the Darkhold — a sinister compendium of mystical lore that would come to stand as perhaps the most significant contribution to the Marvel Universe ever made by the series, ultimately becoming rather more consequential in the grand scheme of things than the Werewolf himself.  Read More

Thor #207 (January, 1973)

In our last post we discussed Amazing Adventures #16, one of three comics published in October, 1972 in which a trio of young comic-book writers staged an unofficial crossover between Marvel and DC Comics, set at the annual Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont, and featuring themselves as characters, without telling their bosses they were doing so.  In this post, we’ll be taking a look at another of those comics: Thor #207, which, behind its dynamic cover by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott, features a script by Gerry Conway and art by John Buscema, Vince Colletta… as well as Marie Severin, whose mysterious credit for “good works” covers her renderings of the story’s likenesses of Conway, Steve Englehart, Len Wein, and Glynis Oliver (who, as it happens, also served as the story’s colorist, under her then-married name of Glynis Wein).  Read More