Tomb of Dracula #10 (July, 1973)

Back in April, 1973, I don’t expect anyone who saw and appreciated artists Gil Kane and Tom Palmer’s fine cover for the tenth issue of Marvel Comics’ Tomb of Dracula anticipated how historically significant this image — the first sight ever provided the general public of a new character named Blade — would eventually become; probably not even that character’s creator, writer Marv Wolfman.  In retrospect, it seems more than fitting that the figure of Blade dominates Kane’s composition, taking up more space than (and pulling focus from) the comic’s titular star; after all, the wooden-knife-wielding vampire hunter would ultimately come to overshadow the very series that gave him four-color life, at least in terms of mass public awareness… and the financial rewards reaped by Marvel.  Read More

Tales of the Zombie #1 (July, 1973)

Return with me now, if you will, to that long-ago era when the word “zombie” was virtually never paired with the word “apocalypse”… a time when one didn’t worry about having one’s brain (or other bodily parts) eaten by ravenous specimens of the walking dead because, well, those guys didn’t seem to eat much of anything, as far as one could tell from the stories about them… and when the animating agent that could make corpses clamber out of their graves and shamble about (no running or swarming in those days) was almost always associated with the magical traditions of voodoo (or, more properly, what passed for authentic voodoo in popular entertainment media), rather than derived from an imaginary contagion or some other “scientific” cause.  Read More

Daredevil #100 (June, 1973)

It’s been a while — sixteen months, to be precise — since this blog checked in with Marvel Comics’ Man Without Fear.  Granted, our last Daredevil-themed post was something of a marathon, seeing as how it attempted to cover writer Gerry Conway’s entire “Mister Kline” saga — a complicated (and ultimately unsuccessful) continuity that encompassed not only a whopping eight issues of DD’s own series, but also five installments of Iron Man, and even one random Sub-Mariner — in a single go.  It was a long post, in other words; one in which no one could seriously claim we hadn’t given Matt Murdock and his alter ego a lot of quality time.  Still — it has been a while.  So, before we get on with the business of marking the milestone of ol’ Hornhead’s first hundred issues, we have some catching up to do in regards to what our Scarlet Swashbuckler been up to for the last 1 1/3 years.  Read More

Marvel Premiere #8 (May, 1973)

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

Dracula Lives #1 (May, 1973)

In February, 1973, Marvel Comics published 42 individual comic books — a 75% percent increase in production from the previous year, when the second month of 1972 had seen the company release a mere 24 new issues.  And notwithstanding such a prodigious expansion in production, the company (which had recently surpassed arch-rival DC Comics in sales numbers for the first time ever) wasn’t nearly done.  But Marvel’s next major phase of growth — which in fact began in that very month of February, 1973 — was to be in a different area than the full-color comics line in which it had made its mark.  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

Marvel Premiere #4 (September, 1972)

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

Marvel Spotlight #5 (August, 1972)

Like many another character to arise out of the production methods of the two major American comic book companies, Marvel Comics’ supernatural superhero Ghost Rider — the one with the flaming skull — had a number of creative minds involved in his beginnings.

Or, alternatively, he was in every significant sense the creation of one sole individual.  It all depends on whom you ask. (Or perhaps that should be “asked”, as more than one of the principals involved is no longer with us.)

That’s true in regards to a number of other comics characters as well, of course — though in most cases, the difference in opinion doesn’t make it all the way to federal court.  But more on that a bit later.  For now, let’s begin with a fact that’s not in dispute — to wit, that the flaming-skull guy who debuted in the 5th issue of Marvel Spotlight half a century ago was not the first comic book hero to bear the name “Ghost Rider”.  Read More

Avengers #97 (March, 1972)

I’m not sure exactly what my fourteen-year-old self was expecting to see on the cover of Avengers #97 when it first turned up in the spinner rack, back in December, 1971; nevertheless, I’m pretty confident that Gil Kane and Bill Everett’s illustration highlighting Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner — plus four other guys I didn’t recognize — wasn’t anywhere near it.  I mean, it was a great image, but aside from Cap, none of those characters were Avengers.  And “Rick Jones Conquers the Universe!”?  OK, that last bit wasn’t so unexpected — it had been pretty clear from the latter scenes of the preceding issue that Rick was going to play an important role in the conclusion of the Kree-Skrull War.  But still — where the heck were the Avengers?   Or the Kree or the Skrulls, for that matter? Read More

Avengers #96 (Feb., 1972)

In November, 1971, the cover of Avengers #96 heralded a new era for the title, as a streamlined new logo created by Gaspar Saladino replaced the one that had graced almost every issue of the Marvel Comics series since its launch back in 1963.  A previous attempt to replace the original logo in 1969 had lasted a mere eight issues; this latter effort obviously proved a great deal more durable, as Saladino’s design, while undergoing multiple modifications over the years, has survived in recognizable form down to the present day.  Read More