In recent months, we’ve followed the Phantom Stranger’s crusade against the secret society of sinister sorcerers called the Dark Circle, as chronicled by writer Len Wein and artist Jim Aparo. That crusade finally comes to an end in the 24th issue — so after pausing just long enough to admire Aparo’s typically fine, mood-setting cover, let’s turn to the first page and get right to it, shall we? Read More
Artist Jim Aparo’s dramatic cover for Phantom Stranger #23 depicts a scene that unmistakably calls back to Gaston Leroux’s 1909-10 novel Phantom of the Opera, or one of its several film adaptations; meanwhile, a blurb at the top plugs the opening installment of a new back-up series, “Frankenstein”. A prospective buyer eyeing this one in the spinner rack back in November, 1972, might well have wondered: didn’t the comic’s publisher, DC Comics, know that Halloween was last month? Why were they releasing this kind of Double Creature Feature now, after the spooky season had already passed?
On the other hand, this was the latest issue of Phantom Stranger — and “spooky” was what this comic book title was all about, not just in October, but all year long. So I suspect most fans probably didn’t think twice about the double dose of classic horror stars, half a century ago; in any event, I’m pretty sure I didn’t, either when I first eyed the cover, or when, after buying the book and taking it home, I finally turned to the first page… Read More
Last November, we discussed Phantom Stranger #17, the fourth outing on the title for writer Len Wein. In that issue, Wein and his collaborator, artist Jim Aparo, showed us a more human side of the mysterious titular hero than we’d seen previously, largely through the introduction of a potential romantic interest. But the Phantom Stranger bid farewell to that interest — a beautiful blind psychic named Cassandra Craft — at the end of #17; and the potential for more characterization-rich storytelling (and perhaps even a touch of issue-to-issue continuity) that Ms. Craft’s advent had seemed to signify wasn’t followed up on in the next couple of issues, both of which featured standalone adventures in which the Stranger operated as solitarily as he had before. Read More
Last summer I wrote a couple of blog posts detailing how I first started buying and reading Warren Publishing’s black-and-white magazine-sized horror comics, beginning with the 1972 Eerie and Vampirella Annuals and the 36th “regular” issue of Eerie, all of which came out in July, 1971. As I noted at the time, I was fated never to become a consistent, regular reader of Warren’s titles, their ultimately serving as but an occasional snack within my overall comic-book diet during the next ten years. Having said that, I’m still a little surprised that after getting off to such a strong start, it ended up taking me a whole seven months to get around to buying my fourth Warren. Possibly I was anxious about getting in trouble should my parents catch me with such “mature” reading material (which did happen, in fact, on at least one occasion). Assuming that was indeed the case, however (and even if it wasn’t), what was it that finally compelled me to go ahead and buy this issue of Eerie, after passing on the last three? I can’t claim to actually remember for sure, but I feel pretty confident that, as with so many other impulse purchases I’ve made over the more than half a century I’ve been buying comic books, I was sold by the cover. Read More
About a year ago I wrote my first blog post about an issue of Phantom Stranger; if you happened to read that one, you may recall that PS #11 was the first issue of the title I’d ever bought, and that I ended up liking it enough to become a regular reader henceforth. Beyond the basic appeal of the series’ supernatural subject matter, my younger self was highly intrigued by the mysterious but noble-seeming title character; I was also a fan of the look given the comic by artist Jim Aparo, who not only pencilled and inked but also lettered each installment. Meanwhile, Neal Adams continued to turn out one classic cover after another for the title, which, even if it wasn’t enough to make me buy the book just by itself, certainly didn’t hurt its appeal. About the only thing in Phantom Stranger I wasn’t all that crazy about was the backup strip, which featured Dr. Thirteen, the Ghost-Breaker; but even that had the appealing artwork of Tony DeZuniga going for it, and anyway, it didn’t appear in every single issue. Read More
A half century ago, when your humble blogger picked the object of today’s post up out of the spinner rack and eyeballed the cover for the first time, I was awfully curious as to who — or what — that wraithlike, red-tinged figure descending into Aquaman’s body might turn out to be. At the same time, I wasn’t the least bit curious about the identity of the cover’s artist — since, with the exception of the usual left-hand column’s worth of floating JLA heads rendered by Murphy Anderson, the cover was the obvious work of Neal Adams. And as Adams had either pencilled, inked or provided complete art for more Justice League of America covers than any other artist in the three years since his very first (for issue #66 [Nov., 1968] ), that was no surprise at all.
But interior art by Adams in an issue of JLA? That was unexpected; nevertheless, on turning past the cover to the book’s opening splash, that’s exactly what my fourteen-year-old self beheld: Read More
In August, 1970, DC Comics retired the logo that had, with minor adjustments, appeared on the cover of their publications since 1949. (For the record, the red lettering had been added in 1954.) It was replaced by a new branding approach that basically consisted of the letters “DC”, the comic’s title, and a graphic representing the comic’s subject matter. That approach gave us a few imaginative and distinctive new logos, such as the eagle-and-shield emblem that graced the Justice League of America’s covers for a couple of years; for the most part, however, the publisher’s books defaulted to a simple formula of “DC” + title + image of the headliner(s), often with some or all of those elements enclosed within a circle. The end result was that every series seemed to have its own individual (if not necessarily memorable) logo, with even those comics that were part of a larger “family” of titles — such as those starring Superman or Batman — standing on their own, with little sense of a shared identity.
There were a couple of exceptions, however, both of which involved anthology titles that didn’t have continuing characters who starred in every issue — specifically, DC’s romance and mystery comics. Read More
Green Lantern #81, the sixth issue of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams’ classic “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” run, represented a couple of “firsts” for the series. For one, the superheroine Black Canary, who’d previously appeared in issues #78 and #79, was cover-billed as a guest-star for the first time. For another, this was the first installment that overtly heralded the major social issue dramatized within the book’s pages with a cover blurb, i.e., the “Population Explosion!”
Along with these firsts, however, issue #81 almost had the added distinction of being the last issue drawn by Neal Adams. As the artist would later tell interviewer Arlen Schumer (in Comic Book Marketplace #40 [Oct., 1996]), “I thought we started to run out of ideas when we ran the overpopulation story… Politically, I had a problem with the book.” Read More
On July 21, 2015, this blog made its debut with a post entitled “It was the summer of ’65…”. In that first installment, I described my earliest experiences with comic books, leading up to to my very first comics purchase in the, well, summer of ’65. Since then, I’ve been writing about some of the most interesting individual issues I bought in my first few years as an avid comics reader (and nascent collector), while also attempting to chronicle, more generally, the evolution of my own comics tastes and interests, and setting that personal narrative in the broader context of what was going on in the funnybook industry (and, more broadly, in American culture), during those years.
But now, almost half a decade after starting this project, I’ve reached the point in the narrative of my comic book buying and reading where that story almost came to an end, fifty years ago. I’ve arrived at the time in my life when, at least for a while, I stopped buying comics. Read More
When last we left Aquaman, the King of the Seven Seas had just been reunited with his long-lost Queen, Mera, and the two were swimming swiftly back to Atlantis to confront Narkran — the man whom Aquaman had trusted to rule Atlantis in his stead while he searched for the kidnapped Mera, and whom he’d since learned had actually been conspiring all along with surface-world gangsters to take and hold Mera prisoner. Both King and Queen were unaware, however, of three other critical situations that were unfolding at the same time: the first (and most urgent) being the solitary battle of Aquaman’s junior partner Aqualad against a fearsome sea monster called the Bugala; the second, a burgeoning popular movement of rebellion against Narkran’s despotism by a band of young Atlanteans; and the third, an ongoing series of tremors that were rocking the undersea kingdom’s foundations. Read More