Last April, we took a look at Marvel Premiere #3 (Jul., 1972), which featured Doctor Strange starring in his first full-length solo adventure since the cancellation of his title back in 1969. In this issue, artist Barry Windsor-Smith and scripter Stan Lee introduced a mysterious new adversary for the Master of the Mystic Arts — a menace who was powerful enough to suborn one of the Doc’s oldest and most formidable foes, Nightmare, but who remained yet nameless and unseen at the episode’s conclusion.
More clues were forthcoming in the following bi-monthly issue, which we covered here last June. This one was drawn by Windsor-Smith in collaboration with relative newcomer Frank Brunner, while Archie Goodwin scripted from a plot by Roy Thomas; it saw the storyline take a turn towards cosmic horror, as Dr. Strange journeyed to the New England village of Starkesboro, whose half-human, half-reptilian inhabitants secretly worshiped the demonic entity Sligguth. However, Sligguth himself was no more than another servant of the same dark threat that our hero had first learned of in MP #3 — a threat that still remained nameless in this installment, though we at least learned a bit more about him — mostly courtesy of Doc’s mentor, the venerable Ancient One, who warned of the imminent return of “a cosmic obscenity that slumbers”. The issue ended on a cliffhanger, with Strange shackled to a stone altar, about to be sacrificed to Sligguth by the demon’s scaly celebrants: Read More
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
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
As we discussed on the blog last month, the 19th issue of Conan the Barbariansaw not only the beginning of the title’s most ambitious multi-issue storyline to date, but also the return of artist Barry Windsor-Smith after a hiatus of several months. That return was marked by a noticeable improvement in the artist’s already impressive skills in the time he’d been away; but it was also marred somewhat by deadline problems that resulted in only the first nine pages of the story being fully inked (by Dan Adkins), the remaining eleven having to be reproduced from Windsor-Smith’s pencils; an intriguing, but not altogether successful experiment, given the limits of comic-book printing technology of the time. Read More
With this issue of Marvel Comics’ Conan the Barbarian, writer-editor Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith inaugurated the first proper extended storyline to appear in the title since its inception. A note on the letters page cited the single Conan novel written by the hero’s creator Robert E. Howard, “The Hour of the Dragon” (published in book form as Conan the Conqueror), as a model for the two storytellers; nearly half a century later, in his 2018 bookBarbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Volume 1, Thomas would also invoke Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, as an inspiration. Both works scan as legitimate antecedents for the multi-issue chronicle of what would soon come to be referred to as the Hyrkanian War, or the War of the Tarim; still, I think its fair to say that of the two, the Iliad bears closer resemblance to the story that Thomas and his collaborators would unfold to Conan‘s readership over the next seven months, at least in its setting and overarching premise. Both epics tell of the siege of a great city by an equally great army; of a bloody war in which neither side may be said to be entirely in the right. Read More
Back in April, we took a look at Marvel Premiere #3, which relaunched Doctor Strange as an ongoing solo feature following a 32-month absence. That comic, featuring a script by the Master of the Mystic Arts’ original writer, Stan Lee, and art by rising young star Barry Windsor-Smith, inaugurated a story arc centered on a mysterious new menace — someone as yet both unseen and unnamed, but powerful enough to compel the service of Nightmare, one of Dr. Strange’s mightiest foes. The issue ended with the sorcerous superhero returning home to his Sanctum Sanctorum following his defeat of Nightmare, unaware that a silhouetted stranger waited there for him.
Two months later, Marvel Premiere #4 picked up exactly where the previous episode left off — but with a significantly changed creative team. In his 2009 introduction to Marvel Masterworks — Doctor Strange, Vol. 4, Marvel’s then new editor-and-chief (and once and future Dr. Strange scripter) Roy Thomas provided this explanation: Read More
In our February blog post about Marvel Comics’ Conan the Barbarian #15, we covered how that issue’s final story page — a full-page splash panel of Conan bidding the wizard Zukala farewell, signed by its artist, Barry Windsor-Smith — also served as the artist’s farewell to the series’ readers, as #15 was the last issue he would draw of the title.
As this post goes out on April 30, 2022, we’re a little less than a week away from the premiere of the second multi-million dollar motion picture from Marvel Studios starring Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts.
But fifty years ago, in the last week of April, 1972, Marvel Comics was just hoping that maybe the good Doctor might be able to sustain his own solo comic book series again, his last such having been canceled in 1969. Although they were hedging their bets a little by bringing him back not in his own title — not yet, anyway — but in the tryout book Marvel Premiere. Read More