Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

Two Legends Flex Their Muscles On This Month’s Great Cover

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I’m returning to Marvel Comics, my true love when it comes to comic books, for this month’s great cover. Let’s look at Sub-Mariner #20 (December, 1969). The legendary artists responsible for this action packed cover are John Buscema (pencils) and Johnny Craig (inks).

Buscema is one of my favorites. I especially like his work from the mid to late 1960s, which included The Avengers, Silver Surfer, and Sub-Mariner. When he took over the penciling of The Avengers, readers were treated to an artist approaching the peak of his abilities. His art was something like a combination of the two previous pencilers who worked on that series. First, was Jack Kirby, then Don Heck. Buscema combined Kirby’s dynamic action with Heck’s more accurate anatomy drawing.

The results are fantastic. (I have previously written in more depth about my appreciation of John Buscema’s masterful illustrating work on The Avengers.)

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By “Crime SuspenStories #22” at The Grand Comics Database. Retrieved June 12, 2008., Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17904260

Johnny Craig goes back to the days of EC Comics. EC really was an excellent producer of comic books that appealed to older readers as well as the typical kid readers of the other publishers in the 1950s. Then came Sen. Estes Kefauver’s attack on comic books which he believed were leading American children to delinquency. He was particularly displeased by EC and it was one of Craig’s covers, the infamous depiction of a woman’s severed head being held by her killer, that drew much of the good senator’s ire.

Senate hearings were convened. Witnesses were harangued. Senators displayed their righteous indignation. The industry created the Comics Code Authority. EC Comics bid the world of comic books a fond farewell, turned to publishing magazines by dropping all of its titles but one, converting that title from a comic to magazine, and Mad Magazine was born anew. Thanks, Sen. Kefauver!

Well, these two excellent illustrators combined their considerable talents to produce a great cover. It’s an action cover in which the complicated hero Sub-Mariner drops in on one of Marvel’s greatest (also complicated) villains Dr. Doom. An epic battle is about to commence!

What kid could resist such a great cover? Both characters are so well drawn. I especially like Dr. Doom’s pose. Sure, he’s wearing a suit of armor, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still jump into action. This is comic books after all. If an artist can draw it, the character can do it.

I also really like the coloring of this cover, likely to have been provided by another legend of comic books – Marie Severin. The red background is attention grabbing and the use of half-toning in the grey of Doom’s armor, along with the use of white for highlighting, gives it a fairly real-looking metallic look.

The same team of artists provide the interior art for this book and it’s outstanding!

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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George Perez: Quite An Artist, Quite A Legacy

This past weekend George Perez, one of the comic book industry’s greatest illustrators, announced he was retiring.

Retire? Hold on while I look that up…

“To withdraw from one’s position or occupation or from one’s active working life.”

What?! People can do that? How do their bills get paid?

Huh. Oh, well.

So, Perez is doing this retire thing and that got me thinking of when I first saw his illustrations. As I wrote in my blog about discovering Marvel’s The Uncanny X-Men in the summer of 1978, I had just determined to become serious about collecting comic books and start buying titles and reading the storylines, instead just buying books with interesting covers. Along with The X-men, I began buying The Avengers.

The first issue I picked up with this new zeal for comics was The Avengers #171 (May, 1978).

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It’s cover was drawn by George Perez and inked by Terry Austin and they proved to be a nearly as potent a creative team as John Byrne  and Austin were on The X-Men. The interior art of this issue of The Avengers was inked by Pablo Marcos and he proved to be an even better fit with Perez’s pencils. Some penciler and inker combinations are truly magical. Perez and Marcos was one such combo.

I quickly began scarfing up back issues of The Avengers, which had become my favorite title. (Oh, how I wish I had done the same with the Dave Cockrum drawn X-Men issues.) And what I saw was a young artist becoming great.

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Perez’s early work in the Avengers was more simple and maybe a little awkward. Some of that was undoubtedly due to the inkers he was paired up with in those early days. His drawings with Vince Colletta or Sam Grainger inking weren’t quite there yet. (See the example from Avengers #141 with Colletta inking, above.) Perez was showing promise, but he was still getting settled in and when he teamed up with Marcos his artwork soared.

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By the time Avengers #161 was produced, Perez and Marcos were creating incredible pages. The action sequences were more dramatic and dynamic. The characters’ anatomy and poses were also more dramatic and more precisely drawn. In the example (see above), how great is that explosive first panel? And the expression on Iron Man’s… um… mask in the fourth panel is far more expressive than any of the faces in that earlier sample.

And Perez’s blossoming as an artist was not only confined to the pages of Earth’s Mightest Heroes. He also turned out some fine work in Marvel’s adaption of the 1976 sci-fi classic Logan’s Run. For that series he was teamed up with inker Klaus Janson. And they also gelled well together. In the first sample, just look at the center frame. Fantastic!

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The second sample is an outstanding example of his dramatic splash pages. Also from the Logan’s Run series.

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Finally, I want to look at a cover he did for the Fantastic Four #184 (July, 1977). He did a run of both covers and interior art with pioneer inker Joe Sinnott. Now, I think Sinnott was a fine inker, but by the 1970s his inking tended to overshadow the artist, not compliment them. However, Perez’s style was not too adversely affected.

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I also want to point out that Perez could be a maniac when it came to drawing backgrounds. There would sometimes be an incredible amount of detail involved, but he kept it under control and kept his covers and pages from looking too busy. That’s not an easy thing to do. I think the two covers I’ve included here are good examples of his attention to detail.

And this is all just his work from the 1970s!

George Perez’s career in comic books would span an additional four decades! Over those decades, his artwork maintained the highest quality as he worked for both Marvel and DC Comics. His work always looked fresh. He kept up with the times, while never losing that classic George Perez look. That in itself is a rare and terrific feat.

The man has left an impressive legacy as he now embarks on his well-earned retirement.

Kudos, Mr. Perez!

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And, for my money, no one drew Ultron better than George Perez!

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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This Story Is Bonkers!

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Is this R. Crumb? The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers? Or some other weird underground comic from the 1960s or 70s?

Nope. It’s Marvel Comics‘ double-sized anniversary issue number 200 of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – The Avengers. This issue is dated October, 1980 and… it’s bonkers!

At this point, I’m going to warn you that I will be spoiling the heck out of this 38 year old comic book.

In the lead up (issues #197-199) to a very special issue of The Avengers, readers learn that Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, is pregnant. We also learn that this is no ordinary pregnancy. Not only is it progressing at a highly accelerated rate, according to Ms. Marvel, who would surely know, there is no father. In fact, she stops just short of admitting to The Scarlet Witch that she’s a virgin.

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“When I shouldn’t even be pregnant at all! I never even… I-I mean, there couldn’t be…

Blast it, Wanda, there isn’t a father!

In a matter of days, with the assistance of Dr. Donald Blake, aka The Mighty Thor, and Jocasta, a robot created by the evil Ultron to be his mate (it didn’t work out – long story), Ms. Marvel delivers a healthy baby boy. The big-brained science members of The Avengers whisk the baby away for a battery of tests, while the new mom is wheeled off to her room for some rest. This does not upset Carol, as it might most any other new mother, in fact, she doesn’t want anything to do with the boy. She doesn’t consider him to be her son.

That’s actually probably a good thing considering what happens later. And what happened before.

Much the same as with the pregnancy, the boy grows at an incredible rate. Within hours he is talking and building a special machine for a purpose he refuses to reveal. He’s incredibly intelligent and resourceful; and he’s named himself Marcus.

As Marcus was growing, Captain America thought he’d ask the miracle boy some questions to determine just what is going on.

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Captain America asks, “For starters, where did you come from?”

Marcus answers, “My mother.”

“Yes, we know that, but… that is, how were you conceived?”

“Uhhhm… By my father?”

“Well, of course, blast it! But who is your father?”

“I am.”

Hold the flip phone! Virgin birth? The kid is his own father? Well, what do you know? I guess this can be considered my Christmas blog.

Somehow Marcus is causing all manner of space/time continuity errors to occur. Ordinary people from modern times are being shifted to earlier time periods. Spacecraft from the future have been brought to 1980. A medieval knight attempts to skewer The Scarlet Witch in a hallway of the Avengers Mansion, while an impossibly large T-Rex attacks it from the outside.

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I mean, seriously, that dinosaur is way too big.

Ms. Marvel finally gives in and goes to meet her “son”, who is now a young man, very nearly her own age. When she sees him she feels immediate stirrings. And not the maternal kind.

Eventually, Marcus tells his tale.

He’s the son of an evil time lord named Immortus, who ruled over the timeless realm of Limbo, but he was originally from earth. (It really is a long and convoluted story. Just go with me, OK?) Immortus was lonely in Limbo, so he plucked a woman from earth to be his mate, and along came Marcus 1.0. However, Marcus is not like his father. He is not evil.

When Immortus disappeared, due to a battle with the Avengers, Marcus was abandoned in Limbo. He wandered lonely for what might have been an eternity, when he thought since he was born into Limbo, perhaps he could be born out.

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Taking a page out of his father’s book, Marcus scanned earth for a suitable woman. He found Ms. Marvel, zapped her into Limbo, showed her a good time with the assistance of Shakespeare and Beethoven, and she responded favorably. They… er… gained carnal knowledge of each other, during which Marcus implanted his “essence” into her. (This was approved by the Comics Code Authority?!) She was then sent back to earth a “mere second” after he had abducted her, with no memories of what had happened.

Then came the fast track pregnancy and – voila – Marcus 2.0!

Sadly, his presence was causing the time shift problems and would soon doom the earth if he couldn’t stop it. That’s what the machine he built was supposed to do, but hot-headed, shoot-first-ask-questions-later Hawkeye barged in and destroyed it. That meant Marcus couldn’t stay on earth. His plan had failed. He now had to return to the loneliness of Limbo.

However, he wasn’t going to be alone. Ms. Marvel, feeling an intense attraction and love for Marcus, decided to go with him.

Technically, Marcus isn’t her son. They don’t share DNA. And he existed before she gave birth to him…

She gave birth to him! She doesn’t want to be his mother, she wants to be his lover! That’s bonkers! Right?!

This tale was conceived by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, David Michelinie, and George Perez. Michelinie wrote the final script and the incomparable Perez drew it with inks by Dan Green. Not a woman in the bunch. No mothers around to say, “Boys! This plot line is bonkers!”

Years later, Star Trek: The Next Generation would use the fast track pregnancy and quickly growing alien offspring plot (The Child – Episode 1, Season 2) involving Counselor Troi. However, she didn’t develop the hots for her kid.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

 

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The Man Has Died. Stan Lee (1922-2018)

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Last December, with the input of a few friends, I had written a post commemorating Stan “The Man” Lee’s 95th birthday. Today I’m writing a brief post to acknowledge The Man’s death and his impact on my life.

I was a Marvel kid in the 1970s, when I started collecting comic books. All of my comic collecting friends were at the time. Although, I grew to appreciate DC Comics later in life, I’m still a Marvel kid at heart. Marvel Comics were just so much more exciting than DC Comics. The artwork was better. The action was better. The characters were better.

The characters were better, in large part, because they were so much more relatable than DC’s. Marvel characters had real world, often mundane, problems. Spider-Man had to figure out how to defeat Doc Ock and protect Aunt May, all while keeping his identity secret and his homework done. OK, I wasn’t fighting super-villains, but I did have homework. That relatability was one of Stan’s greatest contributions to comic books. His characters were people.

I’m aware there have been criticisms against Stan for what appeared to be his desire to be thought of as the sole creator of The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Iron Man, and a whole litany of other exciting super-heroes. But I think those criticisms are a little unfair. Later in his life, he was certain to acknowledge the massive contributions of such creative giants as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in those extremely creative years in the early 1960s. (And, let’s face it, without Stan Lee, how many of us would have ever heard of Kirby and Ditko?)

Stan Lee had a “gee whiz” kind of quality to his personality. He could seem a little hokey at times, but his optimism and exuberance were undeniable. It was that personality that made him the perfect cheerleader for Marvel Comics and for comic books in general. And that cheer-leading was an equally important facet to his contribution to the world of comic books, super-heroes, and, eventually, tent-pole super-hero movies. The Man not only changed comic books, he had a hand in changing Hollywood.

Throughout my youth, I would spend hours and hours reading, looking at, and studying comic books, most of them Marvel. Comic books inspired me to keep drawing, when other kids gave up and moved on to other things. I became an artist, a cartoonist. No, I never did get work drawing comic books, but no matter. It was comic books, Stan Lee’s comic books, that put me on the road to gaining this skill.

For that and the thousand of hours spent battling Dr. Doom with The Fantastic Four, or Ultron with The Avengers, or Magneto with The X-Men, I am eternally grateful to Stan “The Man” Lee.

Packing Peanuts!

No. Make that…

Excelsior!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

(This post has been corrected and updated on 11-16-18.)

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This Month’s Great Cover Has A Lantern Jaw

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Just look at that!

In the January, 1993 issue of Superman (#75), our hero from the planet Kryton had died defeating what seemed to be an unstoppable foe: Doomsday. In the months that followed, as Superman lay “dead,” four characters stepped in to fill his sizable shoes. They were Eradicator, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, and Steel. Eventually, the real Superman rose from the dead (hardly anyone stays dead in comic books for very long) to take up the task of once again fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

This month’s great cover is from Superman: The Man Of Steel #25 (September, 1993). It was drawn by Jon Bogdanove and inked by Dennis Janke. Bogdanove had started working for Marvel Comics in 1986, then he hopped on over to DC Comics in 1991 and became part of the team that created the Man Of Steel title in an expansion of the titles featuring our hero from another world. Then, in the wake of Superman’s death, the team created a new hero named Steel to take over the title.

1993 was part of th23188at awful time period when comic book art began to drown in unnecessary linework. Lines! Lines! Lines! Marvel and Image Comics led the way in this era in which some artists forgot to leave room for color, adding more and more lines, while some inkers also abandoned the use of varying line weight to show the shape of things. Look at the cover of The Incredible Hulk #341 (March, 1988), drawn and inked by Todd MacFarlane, one of the artists who issued in this flood of undisciplined linework. Now, imagine there’s no color, it’s a black and white line drawing. Without the color it would be difficult to tell just what the hell is going on. So many unnecessary lines, which all have more or less the same weight to them.

Compare MacFarlane’s cover to this month’s great cover. Bogdanove and Janke use plenty of lines for shading, but the lines are disciplined. They are loose in their execution, but they are placed right where they are needed. There are thick and thin lines. They make sense. You can tell exactly what is going on. And they leave room for color, which was masterfully provided by Janke.

I love a good close-up and Bogdanove and Janke nailed this one. This, my friends, is how you draw an angry, determined, about-to-kick-your-butt Superman!

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

Correction (12-5-18): I had the scope of the Superman: Man Of Steel title wrong. When the series started in 1991 it featured Superman. I had originally indicated the series was created to fill the void of the missing hero. The correction has been made.

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Atlas/Seaboard Produced At Least One Great Cover

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Martin Goodman, founder of Marvel Comics, left his company in 1972 (he had sold it in 1968). He went on to form a new comic book and magazine publishing company called Atlas Comics in 1974. It’s referred to today as Atlas/Seaboard so as not to confuse it with Goodman’s other publishing company called Atlas that later became Marvel in 1961. He wanted to compete with the big two: DC Comics and, of course, his former company. He hired Stan Lee’s brother Larry Lieber as an editor and offered good money, along with rights to character creations and ownership of their artwork, to freelance artists to get them to come aboard.

He did get some of the big names in the field at the time. Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, John Severin, Russ Heath, and others all lent their considerable talents to the venture.

I can remember being excited about a new comic book company. I even bought a few of their comics. But, the mid 1970s was a rough time for comic books, even for the big two. Atlas just couldn’t compete and it folded in late 1975. None of their titles went more than four issues.

At least one great cover was produced in the upstart’s brief existence. This great cover isn’t by Adams or Ditko or any of the big name artists of the day. It’s also not by the then up and coming Howard Chaykin. No, this cover of the first issue of Targitt (March, 1975) was drawn and inked by Dick Giordano.

Giordano was more known for inking comics over at DC than for being an artist. But, as an artist, he was pretty good. You can see an influence from Neal Adams on this cover, most notably the arm of the bad guy wielding a knife. This makes sense, because Giordano inked a lot of Adams’ pencils for DC.

The Dutch angle might be a little on the severe side. I mean, they are obviously on a ship. Are the seas that rough? If so, why is the deck so dry? Oh. The bad guy’s “going down with the ship” comment isn’t just a pun? Well, the severity adds to the tension and impending action of the scene. Besides, I like Dutch angles.

I do think it was a mistake to have the guy with the speargun getting off a shot. He’s so close to a fellow standing stock still and yet he misses? Did he attend the Imperial Stormtrooper Academy™? Perhaps it’s just a warning shot.

I also like the idea of the character of Targitt. He’s an FBI agent bent on revenge against the Mob who was responsible for the death of his wife and child. There’s a whole Dirty Harry/Death Wish/Punisher vibe to the guy. But, Atlas decided over the next two issues to turn him into a costumed superhero. That was a mistake.

Atlas may have been short-lived, but they gave us this great cover.

Packing Peanuts!

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A Great American Comic Book Cover

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It’s a great Captain America cover despite it showing the patriotic hero having been defeated. He may be down for the moment, but we know he’ll triumph in the end. He always does. Or did in those days, anyway.

This is the first great cover installment featuring Marie Severin as the artist. There weren’t many women working as comic book artists back then. Marie was a pioneer. And she was great. She drew, she inked, and she would color the pages of some of Marvel’s greatest characters. For this May, 1970 issue of Captain America (#125) she provided the pencils and color, while it was Frank Giacoia who inked it.

There is a hint of Gene Colan’s style in this cover and that may be intentional, because Gene is the artist for the pages within. Marie may have been trying to mimic his style. However, I’ve always been more of a fan of Marie’s drawing style than Gene’s. His work was good. Very cinematic. But there was something about how he drew people. Hard to explain.

Marie’s high achievements on this cover are two fold. First, as the penciler, she has drawn such a natural-looking pose of defeat. Cap is unconscious and limp, yet we can still he is a powerful man. She quite literally used the “S”-curve design for her drawing of our defeated hero. The face of the unconscious First Avenger is very nicely done, as well.

Second is her use of color.

(Allow me to sidetrack a bit here. There really is something about the way the comics from my day were colored that make them so much more appealing to me. It’s probably because that’s the way it was done when I first learned to appreciate comic books and so it’s more familiar to me. I like the old way of laying out pages, too. The way comic books look now is fine and a lot of the stuff is great, but I guess I just prefer the old ways.)

Marie’s use of color and heavy black on this cover are terrific at suggesting defeat and dread. Cap has been captured and is being held captive in a cold and dank castle. The blue of his uniform even seems darker with that hint of purple. The use of grey to shade his face instead of flat black is also a nice touch.

Captain America, as drawn by Marie Severin, still looks great even in defeat.

Packing Peanuts!

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