Thursday, May 31, 2012

Marvel Firsts The 1970s Volume 3

The third and final volume of Marvel Firsts The 1970s arrived yesterday. This intriguing series finishes up with another volume of curiosities. This one is filled with some of the bigger splashes of the later Bronze Age for Marvel and some of the oddities as well.

The highlights of this volume for me are the debut stories for Skull the Slayer, Ulysses Bloodstone, Starlord, and 3-D Man. I have all of these in the original, but seeing these offbeat stories in such a dandy looking format is keen. None of these characters really found much success, but the debuts for each is very sharp.

This volume also features a lot of Marvel's attempts to bring women to the fore with Ms.Marvel, Spider-Woman, and She-Hulk getting a showing.

Jack Kirby's dramatic return to Marvel is well documented with The Eternals, Machine Man, and Devil Dinosaur debuts. This isn't the same Kirby who left several years before, but Kirby is still the "King".



Both the Moon Knight and the Guardians of the Galaxy stories were slight disappointments alas since what is used are the first stories of their ongoing series and not the actual debut stories for the characters. For the Guardians that would've been in the late 60's and so not for this volume at all, but for Moon Knight, I've always rather liked his debut story from Marvel Spotlight and am a bit bummed it isn't included.

All in all another fun and interesting volume with several neat galleries of covers of other books which hit the stands during the last part of the decade. There are always things you forget about.

Here are the covers of the issues included in their chronological order, the order in which they appear in the book itself.

Skull the Slayer - August 1975

The Champions - October 1975

Marvel Presents - Bloodstone - October 1975

Black Goliath - October 1975

Marvel Preview - Starlord - January 1976

Marvel Presents - Guardians of the Galaxy - February 1976

Omega the Unknown - March 1976

The Eternals - July 1976

Nova - September 1976

Ms.Marvel - January 1977

Marvel Spotlight - Spider-Woman - February 1977

What If - February 1977

Marvel Premiere - 3-D Man - April 1977

Devil Dinosaur - April 1978

Machine Man - April 1978

Hulk - Moon Knight - October 1978

She-Hulk - February 1980

Rip Off

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Bridge Well Drawn!

Here's the latest artwork advertising this year's Cincinnati Comic Expo. This event is already three years old and I have to give them credit about the wonderful tradition of poster and ad art they've used.

Each year we've gotten some great material featuring a distinctive landmark, this year it is again the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

This year the great Jack Davis does the honors creating one of his patented monster mash-ups. Outstanding!

Here is an earlier rendition of the bridge by Allen Bellman.

Rip Off

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Weird Master!

I remember being very surprised when I learned that the most successful series in the whole of the long and venerable run of Weird Tales was not one by H.P.Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard, the two most famous writers associated with the magazine, but was instead a series written by Seabury Quinn.

The series featured a Sherlock Holmes-like protagonist named Jules De Grandin, a French ex-patriot who alongside his comrade Dr. Trowbridge battle all manner of supernatural beasties from their home in New Jersey. The series was often of the Scooby Doo variety, in that the supernatural had perfectly rational explanations. The series ran for nearly three decades beginning in 1925.

The only Seabury Quinn De Grandin adventures I've read are in a few of the volumes published by Pocket Books during the heyday of the 1970's fantasy revival. Above and below are the covers in this incomplete reprinting featuring some very distinctive covers by Vincent Di Fate.

The adventures are gathered more comprehensively in three volumes which are currently available at much steeper prices. Here is a nifty review. Here's a link to a free online De Grandin story by Quinn to get a taste.

Rip Off

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Longest War!

Sam Glanzman

Rocke Mastroserio & Vince Alascia

Flag raising at Iwo Jima photo by Joe Rosenthal

Memorial Day is a time to reflect and pay homage to all those who have passed, and especially those who have laid down their lives in service to the country.

It regrettably has become a time when we take a few days to examine the nation's response to the aftercare of those who have been wounded both physically and mentally in the military and we find always that the nation, the government elected to represent the people, has yet once again fallen woefully behind in meeting the burgeoning needs of these men and women.

Afghanistan has become America's longest war, and given the grave and enduring nature of the wounds the soldiers still carry, it will remain a war we need to wage long after the conflict itself at long last ends. Caring for the fallen is really the longest war we fight. We as a nation must fight that war more forcefully and with much greater resources.

Rip Off

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Perlin Of Great Price!

Don Perlin is one of those journeyman artists who have been the backbone of the comic book industry, but rarely get the attention and appreciation they deserved. Perlin's style features first rate storytelling, but lacks the over-the-top dynamism that marks many artists who become "stars".

Above is a cover for Fightin' Army #106 by Perlin which shows off his skills to great effect. I love the textures in this cover. The figures are arranged in a particularly effective way, the foreground and middle ground working together to focus the action. The background is less developed to control the movement of the eye and to guarantee it looks at the right things. Nothing fancy in this image, just good draftsmanship.

Below is the cover in its original form.

And here is a 1979 reprint of the image, this time with somewhat brighter colors which frankly don't well serve the drama of the moment.

Perlin was a worker at Marvel at the same time and after he worked for Charlton, on such notable series as Werwwolf by Night, Ghost Rider, and later The Defenders. I don't remember a Perlin book ever missing deadline, in a time when such things were all too common. In the 90's this company man as tapped by Jim Shooter to help the young artists he'd employed to bring Valiant to the public.

I'm not sure what Don Perlin is doing these days, but I'm positive it's being done with grace and skills and consummate professionalism.

Rip Off

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Lonely War Of Captain Willy Schultz!

One of the finest series in the history of Charlton Comics also led to one of the most ignoble acts in the company's history. "The Lonely War of Willy Schultz" was the ongoing saga of a World War II soldier, a man torn between the loyalties of his heritage and country and his conscience, a man who expressed severe doubts about the great conflict he was a part of because he was able to see its costs from many sides of the equation.

The story was the creation of Willi Franz, a very young writer who was just getting started in the business and veteran artist and veteran World War II sailor Sam Glanzman. The story dealt with an American officer of German descent who is falsely found guilty of murder and then finds himself first on one side of the great conflict then another as the whole of war finds itself under indictment.

The story goes that this saga was used as the basis for a young man claiming conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. The military then contacted Charlton Comics, a company which got a great deal of its business through military bases and pressured them to stop the series. They did, and Willi Franz (also the writer of "The Iron Corporal" stories again with Glanzman for Army War Heroes) was never used by the company again, effectively ending his brief comic book career.

Alas the very easy-going attitude toward content which had allowed the series to flourish in issues of Fightin' Army for so long, also led to its demise when the situation became uncomfortable for the powers that were. As long as sales were good, the Charlton folks didn't care about content, all other things being equal. But happily and then sadly for this series, it got noticed. Its very success is what caused its demise.

The series has never been properly collected, though ironically Charlton did later under new management reprint a few issues, and later ACG/Avalon did publish a several issues of the series under its own title and did in fact advertise a trade of the complete run. It was never published as far as I can discover, so this vivid and memorable saga remains a hard-to-find gem from those turbulent times.

Here's a cover gallery of the comics featuring some part of the great Captain Willy Schultz saga.

First there are the original issues of Fightin' Army from issues #72 through #92 save for issue #81.

Charlton Comics in the 80's published just two issues of this attempt to reprint the series and restart the company. Sadly both attempts failed.

Later when ACG/Avalon got the rights to most of the Charlton material in the 90's, they put out these four issues of limited series, but it didn't complete the saga.

This issue of Savage Combat Tales also has a Willy Schultz story within.

Sadly to date there is not proper collection of these significant comic book stories. Stories which made a real difference in the world. This work by Franz and Glanzman deserves better.

Rip Off