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
As I’ve written in previous posts, I bought both the first and second issues of Swamp Thing upon their release back in 1972, and enjoyed them both very much. Somehow, though, I managed to miss the third issue when it came out in December of that year. And so, I had some catching up to do when I first picked up the subject of today’s post, back in February of 1973.
When I’d last seen the tragically transformed Dr. Alec Holland at the end of Swamp Thing #2, he’d just managed to defeat the evil genius Anton Arcane. Arcane had brought Holland all the way from the southern United States to an unnamed Balkan country, solely for the purpose of appropriating the latter’s mucky body (which he then planned to use to wreak vengeance on his perceived enemies, naturally). That adventure had ended with Arcane (apparently) dead, and Holland alive and free (as well as still mucky) — but nevertheless stranded somewhere in the Balkans… and on top of a mountain, to boot. Read More
In September, 1965 — the month your humble blogger first started buying Justice League of America — DC Comics made an adjustment to the publication frequency of that title, adding a ninth issue — an all-reprint “80 pg. Giant” — to the eight-times-a-year schedule the book had been on since 1962. My eight-year-old self didn’t manage to pick up the first of those giant-sized issues, which came out not only a couple of weeks before my own initial JLA purchase (issue #40), but also a mere four weeks after the first comic book I remember ever buying for myself — but I faithfully bought each one thereafter, at least for the next three years. And why wouldn’t I? For one penny more than it would cost you to buy two regular issues, you got three full-length Justice League adventures, by the same writer (Gardner Fox) and artist (Mike Sekowsky) who were producing the series’ current stories (up through issue #63, anyway). Read More
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
I may be misremembering, but I have a vague recollection of my fifteen-year-old self looking at this one at the spinner rack back in October, 1972 and thinking, “The Justice League standing around a grave site? Again?” After all, it had only been three issues since artist Nick Cardy had built his cover for JLA #100 around a similar idea. On the other hand, it was October — the spooky season — and what could be spookier than an open grave? Especially when said grave was being ominously loomed over by… hey, is that thePhantom Stranger? In an issue of Justice League of America? Forget about repetitive cover concepts; I couldn’t wait to buy this one and take it home. Read More
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
In previous posts, we’ve discussed a couple of early “unofficial” crossovers between DC and Marvel Comics that appeared in 1969 and 1970. Both involved an issue each of DC’s Justice League of America (#75 and #87) and Avengers (#70 and #85), and both were built on a conceit of each super-team series parodying the stars of the rival company’s book during the same month. Part of the fun — at least for the creators responsible — was its mildly illicit nature, as none of the writers involved (JLA‘s Denny O’Neil and Mike Friedrich, Avengers‘ Roy Thomas) informed their bosses (DC’s Julius Schwartz, Marvel’s Stan Lee) what they were up to. The results were perhaps something of a mixed bag (both as crossovers and simply as stories), but for the most part, these books made for a good time for comic-book fans. Read More
According to an interview with Bernie Wrightson published in Back Issue #6 (Sep., 2004), the artist was initially reluctant to take on Swamp Thing, in large part because he wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle the deadlines required in producing a regularly published full-length comic book — even one that came out on a bi-monthly schedule. What ultimately convinced him? Mostly, he said, it was because he realized he’d never get a better chance to draw a series that would be “wall-to-wall monsters”.
That opportunity didn’t come immediately, of course; as readers of Swamp Thing #1 (or our August 13 blog post on same) already know, there’s just one bona fide monster in that issue — and he doesn’t even show up until well into the story. But as we’re about to see, by only the series’ second installment, young Mr. Wrightson would be able to make his dreams come true. 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