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Longbox Junk Halloween Horror 2022 Ghost Stories #35

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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

January 2023




Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic book reviews nobody asked me to write!
Continuing on with my series review of all 19 issues of Marvel's 1980 King Conan series, we've come to part three. . .issues 11-15.  These reviews have been taking a quite a bit longer than I thought they would because each issue so far has been a thick and HEFTY hunk of Bronze Age Conan goodness! 
I've been having a lot of fun with this series so far, and I'm STILL trying to figure out why there's barely a mention of it online when there's PLENTY of stuff about Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan, which were also on the stands from Marvel at the same time.  Was a third title TOO much Conan?
Maybe THIS batch will hold some answers.  Up until now, things have been pretty steady with the creative team, with a barely-noticable change in writers from Roy Thomas to Doug Moench and with John Buscema and Ernie Chan being the basic art team combo.  But with this batch, the art team begins to swing to and fro a little bit.
With these changes, will the series be able to maintain the high standard of excellence I've seen so far? 
Let's find out!  Ready? Let's do this!


Marvel (1980)

PART 3: ISSUES 11-15

 (July 1982)
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Alan Kupperberg
INKS: Ernie Chan
After learning last issue that there is a conspiracy against King Conan's throne that goes beyond disgruntled and scheming nobles, Conan gains a clue from a failed assassin's medallion that there may be answers waiting in the Nemedian town of Thalia.  
Deciding to end the conspiracy once and for all, Conan sets forth alone to the western lands. . .but not before receiving a vision from the Pictish Druid, Diviatix.  A vision of fire and blood at the hands of a horrific being called Pentagar Zex. . .The Death-Shaper. A prophecy that seems to tell of Conan's death!
Over the long journey to Nemedia, Conan grows a beard to disguise himself.  Upon his arrival in Thalia, Conan learns of a mysterious haunted forest and a mercenary camp outside it where the men wear medallions like the one Conan took from the assassin in Aquilonia.
Making his way to the camp, Conan easily passes an initiation test of battle and joins the mercenaries as a common soldier.  He is introduced to their leader, a strange woman called Cynnera.  She makes a speech to the men, revealing her plan. . .to kill King Conan and take over Aquilonia!  
She plans to accomplish this by using sorcery to raise a great warrior of a past age called Pentagar Zex. . .the same name from the druid's vision before Conan left on his quest!
That night, Cynnera reveals that she knew her new soldier was actually Conan the King.  She offers him a place at her side after raising Pentagar Zex.  The three of them together can easily take over the entire world! Conan plays along, but after she is asleep, he enters the tomb of Pentagar Zex to try and find a way to stop her evil plot.
His deception is quickly discovered by Cynnera and during their fight, Conan accidentally ends up raising the mighty warrior Pentagar Zex!  He fights a desperate battle against the gigantic undead warrior, but Conan finds himself on the losing side. . .until he destroys one of the medallions and realizes that's what will weaken Zex.  
As Conan destroys the monstrous Zex, the mercenaries turn on Cynerra and kill her while Conan leaves the tomb and begins the journey back to Aquilonia, convinced that the conspiracy against his throne has come to an end.
The End.
I KNEW it was eventually coming.  It's rare that a series can go on this long without breaking down.  It finally happened.  This issue was simply disappointing. There's little of the outstanding quality that came before to be found.  
The art is the strongest disappointment.  I'm not here to try and knock a comic legend like Alan Kupperberg off his pedestal, but I've also gotta be truthful and say that THIS is some pretty lousy art.  Kupperberg has done SO much better work than this (I point to his often outstanding work on Marvel's original Invaders series).  But THIS? No.  Kupperberg may be a good superhero artist, but he's definitely not a good fit for Conan.
And then there's the story itself.  Doug Moench has done a fine job on King Conan so far, but THIS story just seems lazy and by the numbers.  Moench has brought a slightly more introspective style of writing to King Conan, but here it just seems like he was writing from a "Monster of the Month" template and barely paying attention.
Bad story. . .bad art. . .even Sienkiewicz's cover is underwhelming. A disappointing issue all around.  NOT a good start to this batch. I'm hoping this was just an off issue.  Let's check out the next one and find out!
(September 1982)
COVER: Ron Frenz
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Ron Frenz
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
Strange things are afoot in Tarantina, the capital of Aquilonia.  King Conan is summoned in the middle of the night to hear a dire warning from the wizard Alcimedes about evil portents seen in the stars above.  That same night, Darweena (the sorcerer's daughter from issues #10 & 11) is possessed by her father's evil spirit and forced to obey his bidding from beyond the grave!
The next day Conan's son, Prince Conn, returns home from training with the royal Iron Legion (from issue #10) but is distracted by a game with some local youths.  In his rush to return home, Conn takes a shortcut through the graveyard and mysteriously disappears to the horror of his new friends!
As King Conan sets forth to the graveyard with Alcimedes and a handful of fighting men in search of his missing son, Conn wakes in the darkness and is witness to a horrific ritual as two men are sacrificed before a mysterious door.
Above, Conan and his men fight their way through the graveyard as they are attacked by lizard/human hybrid creatures.  Discovering a tunnel leading beneath the graveyard, Conan and his men rush forth in search of Prince Conn.  At the end of the main tunnel, they discover a glowing doorway.  
Alcimedes tells Conan that such doorways are openings to a strange place between the stars inhabited by demonic beings, but THIS doorway leads to the realm of a dark elder called Murgor-Tsoggua, a being trapped by powerful sorcery long centuries before.
To Alcimedes' horror, he sees the elder approaching through the mist on the other side of the door.  Conan and Alcimedes frantically work together to close the door and barely manage to do so before Murgor-Tsoggua is able to enter their world.  Alcimedes seals the door shut with magic and silver. . .but with the closing of the door, Conan fears that his son is lost forever.
The next day, seeing Queen Zenobia's overwhelming grief for their lost son, Conan decides to re-enter the tunnels beneath the graveyard and go through the sealed doorway and search for Conn, even if he dies in the process.  
Conan prepares for the battle by having a silver sword forged, and then enters the tunnels. . .only to find the sealed door missing from the chamber where it had been!  A distraught Conan finds a fresh tunnel and follows it. 
As he explores in the darkness, Conan is overjoyed to find Conn, alive and in hiding from the creatures he escaped from!  Father and son continue to follow the tunnel until its end in the royal palace!  
Following the signs and sounds of battle, Conan and Conn find the palace under attack from the human/lizard hybrid servants of Murgor-Tsoggua!  They fight their way to the royal chambers, where Conan is stunned to see the doorway to Murgor-Tsoggua's realm manifested and opening at the command of Darweena!
Rushing to the defense of Queen Zenobia, Conan confronts Murgor-Tsoggua himself as he comes through the fully-opened door into the human realm.  Darweena manages to shake off her father's spell, horrified at what she has been forced to do, she sacrifices herself to distract Murgor-Tsoggua long enough for Conan to wound the elder with his silver sword and force the otherworldly creature back through the doorway.
Thanks to Daweena's self-sacrifice, the door between worlds collapses and disappears.  The danger is over with. . .for now.  Conan and his family are reunited and all is well.
The End.
Okay. . .not bad!  I was hoping the disappointing issue #11 was just an "off" filler and it seems this issue has the series back on track with a strong story dripping with  H.P. Lovecraft influence.  Because of that touch of classic otherworldly horror, I think this might actually be one of my favorite issues so far!
I've always been a fan of Lovecraft's dark, melancholy stories of the things that live beyond the sight of man, and this story is a great combination of sword-swingin' action and terror from beyond trying to get into the human world.  Yeah. . .it's been done before.  H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard were friends and included nods to each others work in their own.  But even so, this was a very enjoyable comic take on the combination of sword & sorcery and eldritch horror.
On the art side of things, after last issue's disapppointing art, I was glad to see Ron Frenz providing some pencils more along the lines of what I would call Conan's usual "look".  The art is close enough to John Buscema's style, but with just enough difference to not be an attempted copycat.  
Overall, this issue was a really good read.  Let's get into the next one!
(November 1982)
COVER: Marc Silvestri
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
Three powerful sorcerers gather to discuss the many failed plots and plans against King Conan and Aquilonia that they have supported or been part of since the beginning of this series.  They are the savage Kushite, Jumbassa. . .the seductive Ophirean sorceress, Scyllana. . .and the crafty Urazai of Khitai.  They believe that the best way to conquer Conan is to just tell him where they are and work together, so they won't be taken by surprise like others have.
In Aquilonia, King Conan is disturbed by the events of last issue.  He THOUGHT the conspiracy against his throne was done with, but had been proven wrong.  When he receives a magical message from the wizard Urazai challenging Conan to come to a hidden island of sorcery and end things once and for all, Conan immediately sets forth. . .once again leaving the Kingdom without a King.
Once Conan has gone, other plans are set into motion and rebels within Aquilonia wait for the word to strike.  Conan himself follows the directions given to him and is taken by a mysterious boatman to an island with three giant towers. 
 Fighting through many dangers, Conan chooses to climb the tower of Jumbassa first.  After dodging the Kushite's deadly traps, Conan and the jungle wizard finally come face to face.  Conan prevails after a brutal battle where he turned the wizard's magic against him using a silver mirror.  With the first wizard of the three challengers down, Conan turns his attention to the tower of Scyllana.

Not wanting to fight his way through the creatures below, Conan fashions a crude hang glider and is able to make it to Scyllana's tower without incident.  Once inside, Scyllana summons beautiful demonic women to seduce Conan. 
 As he falls under their spell and the demons leech the life from Conan, Scyllana comes to deliver the final blow, but Conan manages to resist and fight back, setting the tower on fire and burning Scyllana and her demons as he makes his escape. . .leaving only one wizard of the three standing.  
Arriving at the final tower, Conan quickly falls prey to the cunning trickster Urazai's trap.  He makes Conan believe that he is a thief who has killed Urazai, and then lures Conan into a magical web, where Conan must fight for his life against a horde of creatures summoned by the wizard. 
As Conan fights, Urazai gives the signal to the Aquilonian rebels and they attack the capital city!  Conan finally manages to free himself from the magic web and confronts Urazai, who tries to escape on the back of a waiting dragon!  Conan attacks and forces Urazai to fly the dragon to Aquilonia in exchange for the defeated wizard's life.
The incredible speed of the magical dragon whisks Conan to his capital city in time to find his forces engaged in a desperate, losing battle to keep the attacking rebels from the royal palace.  Urazai tries one final trick and Conan finally kills the wizard for his trouble. 
 King Conan then leaps into the fray, inspiring his battered men to push forth and drive the rebels from the palace.  The enraged dragon lays waste to everything around it, helping Conan at first, but soon the King is forced to kill the creature.
In the end, Conan and his troops manage to win the day, routing the rebels from the city. King Conan finally allows himself to relax, now convinced that he has rooted out the conspiracy against his throne once and for all.
The End.
Not bad.  Not quite as good as the last issue, but still some mighty fine comic book sword and sorcery!
This one is pure action from start to finish. . .Conan vs. not one, not two, but THREE evil wizards who have challenged him, and THEN a massive battle including a giant dragon!
With all the action, there's not much room for Moench's little touches of story depth he's been adding since he came on board as writer.  There's a few of them there, but this issue reads a lot more like something Roy Thomas would have written, which isn't a bad thing!  
The most interesting thing about this issue to me is the art.  The new artist coming on board (and staying for 4 of the remaining 7 issues) is Marc Silvestri. . .before he was a superstar and one of the founding fathers of Image Comics, of course.  This is some of his earliest professional work and doesn't really reflect much of the signature style that would come later for Silvestri on titles such as Cyberforce and The Darkness.  
Here, Silvestri gives us a much more traditional style of comic art, but with a light touch of high fantasy that we haven't seen in the series yet.  Much like Doug Moench adding a little more depth to the writing on King Conan that I didn't even know I wanted, Marc Silvestri's high fantasy touches are also a nice little change from the usual style of Conan art.  It's not the Silvestri art that I'm familiar with, but I like it!
The Moench/Silvestri creative team is off to a good start.
Let's see what they give us in the next issue. . .
(January 1983)
COVER: John Buscema
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
In the aftermath of the battle last issue, King Conan takes time to heal his wounds.  The court wizard, Alcimedes, tells the sorrowful tale of the first King of  Aquilonia, Andromedus, and how he disappeared without a trace into the Southern Mountains while on a quest to destroy a devilish creature called Xondor Kan.
Alcimedes tells King Conan about his own strange experience in those very Southern Mountains, when he encountered a strange magical force.  Queen Zenobia declares that THEY should be the ones to discover the final fate of Andromedus, and that the strange force must be connected.  
Conan agrees that he should be the one to bring glory by discovering the fate of Andromedus, but doesn't agree with Zenobia coming along on the quest.  She proves her worth by holding her own against Conan in a staff fight.  And so, the next day Conan, Zenobia, Alcimedes, and a few soldiers set forth to the south!
Days later, as King Conan and company camp in the sight of an oddly-shaped mountain Alcimedes declares is the source of the strange magical energy, they are attacked in the night by ghostly beings! After Conan fights them off, they are immediately attacked again by a gigantic lizard-beast!
As the soldiers are slaughtered by the creature, Conan, Zenobia, and Alcimedes flee for their lives and become trapped in a crevice at the base of the mountain, with the only way to escape the raging beast being to follow the crevice into the mountain itself!
After working their way deep into the mountain, the tunnel opens into a vast cave.  The mountain is hollow!  A spiral path leads to the top to the mountain, lined with enclosures holding pale human-like creatures.  As Conan and company take in the strange sight, they are surrounded by the pale creatures.
A demonic beast appears and speaks!  It proclaims that it is Xandor Kan, and that they are his prisoners.  Conan disagrees and prepares to fight, but Xandor Kan gloats that his minions will surely kill Zenobia and Alcimedes no matter HOW hard Conan fights.  Conan reluctantly surrenders.
As the prisoners are led to a cell near the top of the cavern, they witness three of the pale denizens being sacrificed to a disgusting, bloated creature that Xandor Kan calls "The Undead One".  He gleefully informs them that this will be THEIR fate soon, and that Conan will be the last King of Aqulonia. . .his sacrifice will strengthen Xandor Kan enough for him to finally conquer the world of man!
As Xando Kan prepares the sacrifice ritual, Conan manages to escape.  He is shocked to discover that "The Undead One" is actually what is left of ancient King Andromedus!  Andromedus begs Conan to destroy him by hurling him from the ledge into the bottom of the pit below.  
Conan heeds the ancient King's wishes and throws him down to his death.  By doing so, a chain of magical events is set into motion and the hollow mountain begins to fill with lava. . .it's a volcano and it's getting ready to erupt!
Conan quickly frees Zenobia and Alcimedes.  The three of them flee through the chaos of the erupting volcano and manage to make it outside, but Xandor Kan attacks in a rage, furious at Conan for thwarting his plans of conquest by destroying Andromedus!
A battle ensues amidst streams of flowing lava!  Conan finally manages to destroy Xandor Kan by using the silver battle axe of Andromedus.  In the end, the three manage to escape the lava flows and begin their return to the capital city. . .the final fate of Andromedus now known and a demonic threat destroyed.
The End.
Not bad! For the sake of length, the sketch of the story above doesn't really reflect the pretty large amount of character building Moench does in this issue with Queen Zenobia.  I like that he's trying to make her into an actual supporting character with a personality of her own instead of just being window dressing.  Alcimedes also gets a good dose of characterization in this one as well.  
It looks like Doug Moench is trying to expand King Conan's supporting cast a bit more here, and I like it!  There being a regular supporting cast at all is part of what sets King Conan stories apart from Conan the Barbarian stories in the first place.  I like that Moench is starting to lean a little harder into that aspect.
On the art side, Marc Silvestri's pencils are even better in this issue than in his King Conan debut last issue!  There are some really great art moments to be found throughout the story.  Like I said before, it's not the Silvestri style I knew from his Image days, but this early style is certainly impressive, bringing life and motion to the story in a big way!  
So far, I'm REALLY liking the Moench/Silvestri creative team! 
Let's get into the last issue of this bunch of King Conan comics and see what else they've got in store. . .
(March 1983)
COVER: Val Mayerik
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte & Jon D'Agostino
When King Conan decides to spend a night on the town in disguise, he makes the acquaintance of a brash  young rogue named Thandar.  Later, Conan accidentally stumbles onto a scheme involving Thandar, his lover Brissa, and a nobleman named Pontrero. 
Conan witnesses Brissa setting up Pontrero for a theft of his home by Thandar while distracted by his beautiful lover.  Conan decides that he'll have a bit of fun and follows Thandar to the nobleman's home.
After interrupting Thandar's heist, Conan and the young rogue battle in Pontrero's home.  During the fight, Conan's disguise slips and Thandar is shocked to see that his rival thief is the King of Aquilonia!
The fighting stopped, Thandar informs Conan that he is a great hero among the Rogues of the world. . .that Conan's name is whispered in legend and tales told in the night, and that Thandar himself holds Conan as the greatest example of the roguish arts that he can follow!
Conan is greatly amused at his legendary status and takes a liking to Thandar.  He helps the young rogue fight off Pontrero's guards and they escape pursuit together through the streets of the capital city.
After escaping the city, Thandar shows Conan the treasure. . .incense meant to open the sealed door of the nearby hidden temple of R'Shann belonging to a shadowy cult known as the "Hidden Ones", an ancient organization that likes to infiltrate other religions to achieve their evil ends.  It's a cult Conan knows well.
Conan is ready to head back to the palace and end the night's adventure, but Thandar taunts the King for being old and soft and not knowing a good bit of dangerous thievery when he was offered one.  Conan decides to prove the young whelp wrong and agrees to come along, if just for a bit of fun.
After arriving at the temple of R'Shann the next day, Thandar burns the incense to open its sealed door, but the two rogues quickly learn that Thandar was informed wrong about something when, instead of opening the temple, the incense summons ghostly spirits that possess a giant tree that comes to life and attacks the would-be thieves!
After a desperate battle, Conan and Thandar manage to defeat the spirit-possessed tree, only to be taken by surprise by a large group of armed men led by none other than the nobleman Pontrero and Thandar's lover, Brissa!
As Conan and Thandar are taken prisoner, Prontrero and Brissa taunt Thandar about how easily he was misled and used to clear the path to the temple so that the treasure could be taken by them instead.  
The nobleman's party enters the now-unlocked temple, leaving Conan and Thandar tied as captives outside.  But it isn't long before screams begin to echo out of the temple's door.  Conan bullies their terrified guard into freeing them, and the pair of rogues rush into the temple to see what's afoot.
Inside, they find Brissa. . .broken and beaten to death.  Conan and Thandar follow the sounds of fighting and come to the main chamber of the temple, where Pontrero and his few remaining men are desperately fighting a battle against gigantic ape-like creatures!
Conan and Thandar leap into the fray and manage to defeat the temple's guardians, but are unable to save Pontrero.  Thandar takes the treasure chest and discovers that it is just more incense meant to summon the temple guardians. . .priceless magic for the Hidden Ones, but worthless to anyone else!
Conan has a good laugh at Thandar's expense as he tells him that the quest for treasure is usually better than the treasure itself and that he had a good time recapturing a bit of his youth, but it's time for him to go back to being a King.  Thandar tells Conan that he's headed for Stygia to see what adventures await, and the two part.
The End.
The first may have been the worst, but the best was the last issue of this bunch!  The Moench/ Silvestri team knocked this one right out of the park with a tale absolutely PACKED with action, adventure, and humor.
Moench outdoes himself as he tells a tale of Conan trying to recapture a bit of his youth and realizing that new legends are going to have to be written without him.  The dialogue between Conan and Thandar is simply fantastic as the two taunt each other during their adventure about being too old and being too young.  It's a great back and forth through the whole issue that is really enjoyable to read!
It's taken 15 issues for Conan's age in this series to REALLY be in the spotlight.  It's been a definite oversight up to this point. Judging from the letters column, I'm not the only one that noticed.  Moench dives right into it with humor and a bit of introspection. . .such a great way to bring a practically ignored aspect of King Conan into the spotlight!
Marc Silvestri's art seems to get better with each issue as he becomes comfortable with King Conan.  He perfectly handles this offbeat story, breathing life and motion into the characters and their surroundings that just makes me want MORE! 
Overall, a fantastic job all around!  This issue was a really enjoyable read, with art that seems to move across the page.  The Moench/ Silvestri team is getting better with each issue they do together and I can't wait to see what they have in store next!


I never thought I would see the day when I would say that I enjoyed another Conan comic team as much as Roy Thomas & John Buscema. . .but that day has come!  Doug Moench & Marc Silvestri have managed to give me a Conan that I didn't even know I wanted.  
Thomas and Buscema will ALWAYS be the definitive Conan team in my book (apologies to Barry Windsor-Smith fans), but Moench and Silvestri have done a fantastic job of it. . .every bit as good as anything Thomas and Buscema did with the character.  And to think that I never even knew that Doug Moench wrote any Conan comics!  I always knew him as more of a Batman and Moon Knight writer.
I guess it just goes to show that you never know what you'll find down in the bargain bins. . .which is where I got every issue of this series except #1.  Who knew I'd find a new favorite Conan team in comics barely "worth" cover price?
Yeah. . .issue #11 was a bit of a clunker, but in MY humble opinion King Conan so far is a series that absolutely DRIPS with quality storytelling and art.  These issues are giant hunks of sword and sorcery comic book fun and I'm still having a bit of trouble understanding why this series is practically ignored. 
If you are a Conan fan and haven't read these, you're missing out.  Simple as that.
Up Next. . .
MORE King Conan! 
It's the final batch of four issues in this series review, #16-19.
Be there or be square!

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Happy New Year from Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic reviews you didn't ask for!

Yep. . .another one down.  The last few years have been a little rough, so I hope you made it through 2022 okay.  Everything else aside, it's been a GREAT year for Longbox Junk. I thank everyone who takes a bit of their time to visit this little corner of the internet. . .stick around, there's plenty more to come in 2023!

It's at this time of year when I look back at the year before and forward to the one to come that I like to send out a little non-comic book related message to anyone reading here.  If you don't mind indulging me for a moment. . .
DISCLAIMER: The following is really for U.S. readers, but I'm sure the sentiment applies just about anywhere.
Let's not try to make it sound pretty. . .this country is divided.  There's a huge political ideological gap between Conservatives and Liberals that's been growing for about the past 10 years and has only gotten wider during the past two Presidential elections.  And it's gonna get worse before it gets better.
Now, before you tune out, I'm not going to try and throw my support behind one or the other viewpoints.  There's other places for extended and detailed political discourse.  As far as I'M concerned, I'm an Independent leaning to the Right a bit, but I've voted for both sides over the years. A Centrist, I guess you'd call it.
My wish for 2023 is that we TRY to work together to close that ideological gap.  Even a LITTLE bit would be a help for the country.  Where we are at right now just isn't healthy for the future of this nation.
In the coming year, PLEASE try to remember that just because you disagree with someone. . .even if you disagree strongly. . .that doesn't automatically make that person your enemy.  There's GOT to be some common ground you can both stand on.  Even if that common ground is just a shaky little patch, it's there.
Listen.  Learn.  Just because something is coming from a different political direction than yours, that doesn't mean it's automatically bad and not worth listening to.  Both sides of this ideological divide have good points to them.  They don't often match up, but that doesn't mean they aren't there.  It doesn't mean that one side doesn't have ANYTHING to teach the other.
Extremism on BOTH sides of the divide is pulling the country apart.  In this coming year, try to step outside of your particular comfort zone a little bit and try to find a way to pull things back toward a middle ground.  
And when it gets to be too much. . .PLEASE just try and relax a bit.  Politics aren't EVERYTHING and they were never meant to be!  Just as a constant focus on politics isn't healthy for the country, the same constant focus isn't healthy for us.  Just relax! Take it easy.  Washington D.C. is NOT the center of the world.
Once again, thank you for taking a bit of your time to visit Longbox Junk!  I truly appreciate each and every reader of this blog, and I hope that you all have a happy and prosperous New Year!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

'Tis the season to be jolly!  That's right, folks, Christmas is just around the corner!
In the spirit of the season, I'm taking a short break from the Longbox Junk business at hand, being the epic reviews of 19 issues of King Conan (Which is taking me WAY too long. My apologies) and turning the Longbox Junk spotlight toward a Christmas comic! 
And so, let's jump into the Longbox Junk time machine and head back to 1975 so we can take a look at a strange little holiday offering featuring the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing and the mysterious spirit of vengeance, Ghost Rider teaming up to fight a wannabe diety!
I'd like to take just a moment to thank my Longbox Junk readers.
I truly appreciate everyone that takes a bit of their precious time to come here.  For the new readers, I'm glad you found me in my little corner of the internet and I'm happy to have you here hanging out with me.
I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Enough of that. Ready? Let's do it!


Marvel (1975)

COVER: Gil Kane & Joe Sinnot
SCRIPT: Steve Gerber
PENCILS: Sal Buscema
INKS: Mike Esposito
It's not the greatest cover in my collection by a long shot (sorry, Gil Kane superfans), but it IS really colorful and full of action.  Ghost Rider and his bike both look sort of "meh", but overall this cover does catch the eye with all the brilliant colors set against the black background.  
Let's get inside and check out the story!
We begin our tale in the Arizona desert, where Ghost Rider comes across three mysterious men on camels following a bright star.  Curious, Ghost Rider speeds ahead of them to see what is going on.
Leaving Ghost Rider behind for now, we switch scenes to New York City and the Baxter Building.  The Fantastic Four, along with some of their closest friends, are celebrating Christmas with a tree-lighting party.  Unfortunately, Reed Richards is wrapped up in his work observing a strange new star that has just appeared, that he's missing the party.
Returning to Ghost Rider, he discovers a strange Middle-Eastern town in the desert.  But the people, who are wandering in some sort of daze are American Indians.  Feeling strangely, Ghost Rider discovers a stable behind an Inn. . .sure enough, there is a woman, a man, and a child!  
As Ghost Rider ponders the meaning of it all, a strange being calling himself "The Creator" demands that he leaves.  When Ghost Rider refuses, the being throws him out into the desert with little effort at all.  Ghost Rider becomes more determined than ever to get to the bottom of the mysterious events.
Returning to New York, Ben Grimm conveys his disappointment to Reed Richards for missing the Christmas Party.  But Reed ignores him.  He's discovered that the mysterious star he's been observing is now over the Arizona desert above an Indian Reservation.  He intends to take a Fantastic Four jet and investigate. 
The Thing is having no part in it and demands that Reed go spend time with his family on Christmas while he goes to see what is happening.  Reed agrees and leaves to join the Christmas party.
Arriving in Arizona, The Thing encounters Ghost Rider in the hills above the mysterious town.  The two know OF each other, but this is the first time they've met in person.  After a bit of discussion, they decide to work together to get to the bottom of the strange events. 
Disguising themselves, The Thing and Ghost Rider return to the manger, where they encounter the mysterious "Creator" again, but this time he is revealed as an old foe of the Fantastic Four. . .the Miracle Man!
Now revealed and enraged, Miracle Man uses his powers to attack The Thing and Ghost Rider while gloating to The Thing about how he managed to escape the captivity of tribal spirits the Fantastic Four put him in and return to Earth, more powerful than before!

 His new plan is to become immortal by recreating the events of the first Christmas, but with his own created child as Messiah, making HIM the Creator!  Ghost Rider and Thing aren't impressed with his convoluted exposition, and then. . .IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME!
Ghost Rider and The Thing work together to bring Miracle Man down.  When The Thing knocks the villain out, his control over the area goes away and things return to how they actually are, breaking the mental control he had over the Native American tribe.  
The tribal spirits that Miracle Man escaped from return him to captivity, but mysteriously the child that he created remained even after the rest of Miracle Man's illusions disappeared.  The tribe agrees to take the child in and raise him as their own.
Ghost Rider takes his leave, returning to his lonely ride and leaving The Thing to wonder about the strange new hero he's just met.  
The End.
Okay, there is is.  Marvel Two-In-One #8.  Let's break it on down!
It was. . .interesting.  The cover isn't lying when it says that this story is offbeat.  The villain's plan was pretty convoluted, to say the least.  I still don't understand it, but I have the feeling that the answer to any question I may have about it all would be, "Shut up and enjoy the comic, kid!"
This is one of those comics that don't really HAVE to make sense.  It's got The Thing and Ghost Rider together for the first time, right?  Does anything else really matter?  It's colorful.  It's action packed.  It's FUN!  Yeah. . .the story doesn't make much sense and it's not the sort of thing you're going to remember for long, but hey. . .Shut up and enjoy the comic, kid!
Not every comic has to be great.  Heck, this one is actually barely GOOD.  Sometimes you just want to read a comic book for FUN.  This comic is one of those comics.  It's not going to make any "Top Ten Greatest Whatever" lists.  It doesn't need to. Shut up and enjoy the comic, kid!
 The art isn't anything special. . .I'm a huge fan of John Buscema, but in MY humble opinion Sal Buscema's work is. . .okay.  But does the art for this kind of comic NEED to be anything more than okay?  Not really.  It tells the story, that's it. That's all.  It's okay. Shut up and enjoy the comic, kid!


Honestly, this comic is a bit of a mess.  The story is basically an excuse for Ghost Rider and The Thing to team up and defeat a villain with a convoluted plan to become. . .G-od?  The art tells the story and doesn't try in the least to rise above the level of okay.  But you know what?  This comic was FUN!
If you're looking for a little bit of Bronze Age fun with some holiday flavor sprinkled on it, then here you go.  If you're looking for a deep, layered story or some mind-bending artwork, this ain't it.  This is a comic that knows what it's supposed to be and that's all it is.  Take it or leave it.  
Up next. . .
Back to Longbox Junk business at hand. . .Part 3 of my King Conan series review.
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the reviews are free!
As I continue into the second part of my King Conan series review, I feel I should acknowledge the several readers who sent me gently chiding messages regarding the massive heft of the first part.  And I understand. . .my little counter in the corner tells me it clocked in at very close to 4000 words!
I was trying to keep it slim, but the fact is, these double-sized issues PACKED with story make it a bit difficult.  What I wrote was only a bare-bones sketch of what's there!  The length of the reviews should serve to illustrate just how much there is to be found in those issues.  
I mean. . .SURELY it's not that I just get long-winded sometimes and I no longer have an editor to rein me in.  Nope.  Not that at all!
Seriously, though.  Thanks for the feedback.
Here we are at Part 2.  Issues 6-10.  
I'm going to TRY to keep things trimmed down a bit. Probably not by much, but I'll try.  
So enough introduction and let's get to it!


Marvel (1980)

PART TWO: Issues 6-10

(June 1981)
COVER: Walter Simonson
SCRIPT:  Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
Trocero continues to tell a tale of Conan's early days as King to his son, Conn.
As King Conan travels through the desert on his way to Khitai to rescue his kidnapped Queen Zenobia, he saves a Zuagir nomad from his Turanian captors.  He learns that an old friend of his, now a Zuagir chieftan, has been captured by the Turanians and is being held in a nearby city.  
Conan (formerly a Zuagir chieftan himself) gathers the tribes and makes plans to sack the city, entering it disguised as a merchant caravan.  
After successfully infiltrating the city and gaining knowledge of the layout ahead of his Zuagir horde, Conan signals the attack!  As the Zuagirs pillage the city, Conan fights his way to the Governor's palace.  
There, he is astounded to find the girl who led him into ambush in the city of Khanyria (in issue #5), but now dressed as a noblewoman.  After killing the Governor, and while the city's defenses collapse under the Zuagir attack, Conan demands answers from the woman, called Thanara.
While they speak, Thanara poisons Conan, putting him into a deep sleep.  With the aid of a Turanian Captain, Zanara manages to get Conan past the rampaging Zuagirs and out of the city to the Turanian capital of Aghrapur. . .where Conan wakes up several days later in the dungeon of King Yezdigerd!
To be continued. . .
The second batch of issues in this series review gets off to a fine start, with Conan temporarily setting aside his journey to Khitai and returning to his days as the leader of a ravaging horde of desert nomads.  There's plenty of action and intrigue here from writer Roy Thomas, who continues to provide rock solid Conan adventure.  
BUT. . .
There IS a problem with the art in this issue.  Especially when compared to the outright brilliance of the previous one. John Buscema's line work is fine, but there's something wrong with the printing in general.  The colors are garish (it's the same colorist that's been on since the beginning, so no team change), the overall tone is way too bright, and the text is simply unreadable in places, it's so blurry.  
The whole comic just seems too bright and a little off-putting.  Just look at the scans above to see what I'm talking about, especially the first one, where Conan's face is bright red for some reason.  I'm not sure what went wrong, but it goes on for a couple more issues before it's corrected.  It makes this and the next couple of issues a bit harder to visually enjoy. . .a shame, because the story itself is pretty epic.
 (September 1981)
COVER: John Buscema

SCRIPT:  Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
Continuing Count Trocero's telling a tale of Conan's early days as King to Prince Conn as they return to Aquilonia after defeating Thoth-Amon. . .
Conan finds himself in the dungeons of his old foe, Yezdigerd, King of Turan, after being poisoned by Thanara in the last issue.  He is brought before the old King for the first time in 30 years, and sees Thanara at his side.  
After being sentenced to be tortured, Conan breaks free and attacks the King, but is quickly overwhelmed by the King's guards until an unexpected ally joins the fight. . .Rolf of Aesgard, an old companion of Conan who happens to be in Turan at the time.  The pair fight their way from the throne room, but their only escape from the castle is to dive into the sea!
Conan and Rolf steal a boat and set out on the inland Vilayet sea, where they encounter a pirate ship of the Red Brotherhood, which Conan once led when younger.  Conan takes command of the pirates after winning a duel with their Captain.  
Knowing that Yezdigerd is still pursuing him, Conan decides to set a trap.  He lures Yezdigerd's ship onto hidden rocks, and then attacks, killing the King during the battle! The same creature that kidnapped Zenobia flies in to rescue Thanara.  Conan leaves the pirates in the command of Rolf and continues his journey east. . .
Weeks later, we find Conan in the eastern country of Vendhya, on the border of Khitai.  A mysterious messenger leads Conan into the royal palace, where he is reuinited with an old flame from his days as the chieftan of a nearby tribe of hill people. . .Devi Yasmina, now a Princess upon a troubled throne.  
Later that night, Conan and Yasmina are attacked by her cousin and a band of assassins.  He is intent on stealing her throne.  Conan kills Yasmina's cousin and she offers him her kingdom and her hand in marriage.  Conan refuses and sets out once again for Khitai.

To be continued. . .
Roy Thomas packs so much great Conan adventure into this issue that it really feels like there's TWO stories here. . .Conan's escape from Turan and his adventure with the pirates to end Yezdigerd's pursuit AND Conan reuiniting with an old flame and helping protect her rule from her cousin's plots in Venhya!  
I really wasn't counting on so much story being in these issues when I decided to review the run.  It's making it hard to keep things trimmed down.   I'll say one thing. . .these comics were a little expensive by 80s standards, but Roy Thomas made SURE they were worth every extra penny.
On the art side of things.  Once again, John Buscema's line work is just as great as it ever was, but the strange look of the previous issue continues just as badly into this one.  The whole thing just looks washed-out and too bright, with garish colors in some places, really weak color in others, and blurry text on a few pages that can hardly be read.  
Overall, this is a great Conan story.  Too bad it's a little hard on the eyes.
 (December 1981)
COVER: John Buscema
SCRIPT:  Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
Count Trocero finally finishes telling young Prince Conn a tale of Conan's early days as King of Aquilonia. . .AND we arrive at the epic conclusion of this four-issue story arc!
As Conan crosses the treacherous Himelian Mountains on the final leg of his journey to Khitai, he is ambushed by a savage snow beast.  Conan barely manages to survive the battle, thanks to the power of the Ring of Rakhamon (Given to him in issue #5).
On the other side of the mountains, Conan is finally in Khitai.  After crossing the great defensive wall, he travels through the bamboo jungles near Paikang.  He encounters a beautiful woman being staked out for sacrifice.  After killing the soldiers guarding her, Conan is attacked by a gigantic lizard beast!
Using his wits and barbarian cunning, Conan manages to destroy the monster, and then travels with the woman to her village.
In the village, Conan learns that he matches the description of a prophecy that has been made about the downfall of Khitai's despotic leader. . .the sorcerer Yah Chieng!  Convinced Conan is the foreign Avenger spoken of in prophecy, the surrounding villages gather their few fighting men to join Conan.
The plan is to secretly infiltrate the fortress of Paikang during a large festival when the gates are opened to the public.  As Conan's allies spread through the crowd, Conan makes his way to the palace dungeons, where he has learned a band of western mercenaries are being held.  He is surprised to find an old friend, Lyco of Khorshemish, among them.  He puts Lyco in charge of the freed mercenaries and tells them to await the signal to attack.  
Conan then delves deeper into the palace dungeons, where he defeats several traps using the magic powers of the Ring of Rakhamon.  Finally, he discovers the chamber where his Queen Zenobia is being held and prepared for a dark ritual sacrifice by none other than Yah Chieng!
Conan leaps to battle his foe, but even with the Ring of Rakhamon, he is no match for Yah Chieng's dark sorcery and King Conan is defeated!  BUT. . .Conan finds himself standing before the throne of Crom himself!  The of the Cimmerians returns Conan to life and imbues him with the mighty power needed to defeat Yah Chieng and free Zenobia.
And so ends Trocero's tale told to Prince Conn.  Conan has been listening the whole time, satisfied that his son has heard the truth.  Conn swears to live up to Conan's mighty heritage and all's well that ends well.
The End.
Once again, Roy Thomas provides an issue absolutely PACKED with story.  The description above is about as bare-bones as it can get!  This story has it all. . .action, adventure, sorcery, even Crom himself!  It's a truly epic end to this sprawling tale of Conan's journey to the far off land of Khitai, and these four issues are probably worth reading this series for alone!
BUT. . .
Unfortunately, the problems with the art. . .no, not the ART.  John Buscema's pencils are every bit as epic as the story they illustrate.  The problem is with the printing, for some reason.  Like the previous two issues, there are places with garish colors, places with almost no color, and very blurry text here and there.  The whole issue looks too bright and washed out.  
It's not QUITE as bad as the other two issues with this problem.  It looks like maybe they noticed and were trying to correct, so it's a noticeable improvement but it's still bad enough to be the only real disappointment I have with this story.
Overall, a great conclusion to Conan's epic four-issue quest.  It's too bad the printing issues in three of the four take the whole thing down a notch or two.  The GOOD news is that the printing problems seem to have been taken care of in the next issue, so let's check it out!
(March 1982)
COVER: John Buscema

SCRIPT:  Doug Moench
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Ernie Chan
King Conan brings his son, Prince Conn, along with him on a trip to the borderlands of Aquilonia and across the River Styx to parley with a Pictish Chieftan called Dekanawatha Blood-Ax.  Conan intends for his son to observe diplomacy in action.
Conan and company find Blood-Ax to be an agreeable negotiator and an agreement is made regarding Pictish hunting parties crossing the Aquilonian border.  They spend the night with the Picts, planning to observe the manhood ritual of Blood-Ax's son, Akenak, the next day before leaving.
The next day, Blood-Ax's Shaman, Goronda Zek, informs those gathered that Akenak's trial of manhood involves finding and bringing back three prizes: The wings of an eagle, the horns of a sacred white stag, and two bones of an ancestor.  Prince Conn is determined to prove to Conan that he is also a man, and he insists on taking the trial of manhood in competition with Akenak.  Conan and Blood-Ax agree.
The two youths rush into the wilderness in search of the first prize, the wings of an eagle.  Prince Conn finds an eagle first, but  Akenak manages to claim victory.  As the two competitors begin to track the sacred white stag, we learn that there is a plot afoot to steal leadership of the Picts from Blood-Ax, with the shaman Goronda Zek as the leader.  
The trial of manhood is but a ruse, and the three prizes are actually powerful totems for Zek to work his dark magic with!  In the meantime, Prince Conn has successfully tracked and killed the sacred white stag and claimed the second prize.  With the contest tied, they both rush for the river grotto where the bones of the Picts are laid to rest in order to claim the final prize.
At the grotto, Akenak claims the third prize, but only with Prince Conn's help.  The two youths are taken prisoner by Goronda Zek and his conspirators.  Zek uses the three prizes to work an evil spell, bringing a long-dead river spirit to life in order to kill Conan and Blood-Ax!
Conn manages to leave a message for his father with Akenak providing a distraction.  Upon discovering the message, Conan and Blood-Ax set forth to rescue their sons. . .but find themselves falling into a trap!  
The two warriors find themselves in battle against a gigantic creature calling itself The Brown Man.  Conan and Blood-Ax discover their weapons do little against the magical giant, but they manage to use their wits and bring the battle to a draw.  Conan negotiates with Brown Man and convinces him to attack the camp of Goronda Zek and his warriors instead.  Brown Man agrees.
After the Brown Man deals with Zek's warriors, Conan and Blood-Ax confront and kill the traitor Shaman and rescue their sons as the Brown Man returns to the river, greatly wounded from the battle.  At the end of it all, Conan and Blood-Ax ask their sons who won the contest, but they both agree that the other one did, and so both are granted manhood.  All's well that ends well.
The End.
With this issue, comic legend Doug Moench takes over as regular writer of this series until issue #16.  All in all, he does a great job stepping into Roy Thomas' big Conan shoes with this standalone tale.  When I think of Conan I DO think of Thomas, but Moench brings a little something different to the table. . .a more introspective story about what it means to be a man.  
Yeah, there's a giant monster too, but Brown Man is only in the last 8 pages.  I liked that most of this story focused on Prince Conn trying to prove something to his father and realizing that it doesn't even matter in the end.  It's just a really good one-shot Conan story with some interesting thoughts weaved into the plot.  It's actually one of the best issues of this series so far!
On the art side, as you can see from the page scans above, whatever was going on with the printing has been corrected and the definitive Buscema/Chan Conan art team is really shining again!  It's just page after page of magnificient Bronze Age art that invites the eye to linger.  
So, Doug Moench steps up to the task of writing Conan after the great Roy Thomas and does quite well.  The art is also back to being great.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes from here!
(May 1982)
COVER: Ernie Chan
SCRIPT:  Doug Moench
PENCILS: Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
With Queen Zenobia away from the capital city representing Aquilonia at a royal wedding, and Prince Conn away for a month training with the elite Aquilonian Iron Legion, Conan chafes at the boring day to day life of a King and jumps at the chance to leave the palace when an old man petitions the King for help.  His daughter has been abducted by followers of the Serpent , Set.  They plan on sacrificing her at the mysterious "Plateau of Mist" on the border of the Kingdom. 
Of course, Conan is unaware he is riding into a trap laid for him by conspirators against his throne.
Upon arrival at the hidden plateau, Conan and company climb to the top, where they are amazed to discover a sort of lost world on top. . .a misty jungle, heated by volcanic vents.  It's populated by giant living dinosaurs, survivors from a long past age.  
After Conan and his men fight their way through the jungle, they finally come upon the altar of Set, with the old man's daughter, Darweena, chained for living sacrifice to a gigantic dinosaur called The Father of Set!
Conan leaps to the attack! After losing his sword, he finally manages to defeat the huge creature using one of its own teeth as a spear.  The girl is rescued and what's left of Conan's party returns to the capital city. Conan's adventure is over with. . .or so he thinks!
Upon their return to the capital city of Tarantina, King Conan finds that there has been a rebel uprising in his absence.  It has been put down, but Conan is disturbed by how things seem to always fall apart when Queen Zenobia is away.  In the meantime, the conspiracy to draw King Conan away from the city and kill him has failed, but the conspirators remain, and they shift their plans in another direction.
The old man whose daughter Conan rescued has carved a fine statue and necklace for King Conan out of the tooth that he used to slay the Father of Set.  That night, a foul sorcery is worked on Conan's palace. . .the old man is actually the sorcerer Mimus, a follower of Set! 
As a deadly mist engulfs Conan's guards, the King is warned of the attack by Darweena, the sorcerer's daughter, who has decided to aid Conan after he saved her life.  Conan confronts the sorcerer, but he uses the carved tooth to raise the Father of Set from the dead in Conan's own throne room!
With Darweena's help, Conan manages to turn the giant beast against Mimus, and then kill the creature by collapsing the pillars of the throne room onto it. . .ending the spell and dissolving the deadly mist.  
The next day Queen Zenobia returns and is hardly surprised to find the city and palace in chaos and disarray after leaving her husband in charge of things alone for a few days.
The End.
Doug Moench settles into writing King Conan with another great little one shot story packed full of action, sorcery, and adventure.  It's not as introspective as the one in issue #9, but it definitely has some interesting character moments from Conan realizing that he may be King, but Zenobia is the one who REALLY holds the Kingdom together.  I love Roy Thomas writing Conan, but Doug Moench is doing a fine job of it so far.
Ernie Chan does both pencils AND inks in this issue and it looks great!  It's definitely a different style than what's come before. . .it's a much darker and bolder look than Chan's inks over Buscema's finer pencils, and it really packs a savage punch! To ME John Buscema IS Conan art. . .but you know what?  I didn't miss his pencils a single bit reading this issue.  Ernie Chan does a fantastic job from cover to cover!
Overall, this was a really enjoyable issue.  I like that the series has moved away from continued storylines and into one shot King Conan tales.  Not that I didn't like the extended stories.  I just like to be able to read a whole story in one big issue, and the double size of King Conan issues is a perfect platform for exactly for that.


So there you have it.  Issues 6-10 of King Conan.  In this batch, the series moves away from extended storylines in favor of one shot stories. . .and in MY book, that's a good thing.  The oversized double issues are perfect for big, chunky standalone tales. 
 Each one of these issues is packed SO full of story that it makes me wonder if maybe I might have done the series a bit of a disservice in reviewing them in batches when each individual issue deserves a full review!  But here we are, and so we go on!  Just know once again that there's quite a bit being left out in the bare bones reviews of these issues.  
These comics cost about twice as much as most comics on the stands in the early 80s and brother, they are worth every extra penny!  I'm still trying to figure out WHY not much has been said about this series, and why there's so little information on it.  I'm wondering if maybe that higher price point might have had something to do with it, because it's certainly not the quality of the stories or art, which are both top-notch late Bronze Age work.
Overall, despite some sort of strange printing problems on issues 6-8, every single one of these issues are a great read for any Conan comic fan.  They are huge stories packed with great art. . .the sort of comic books that you want to take a little extra time to enjoy.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next batch has in store!
Up Next. . .
King Conan Part Three!  Issues 11-15.
The art team begins to swing in the wind a bit with the next batch, with several artists coming and going.  Can King Conan continue to stay on the rails and keep up the excellence I've seen so far?
Let's find out! 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place where I write comic book reviews even though nobody asked me to!  To be fair, nobody has asked me to STOP writing them yet, so there's that.

It's been a while since I tackled a whole series.  At one time, writing reviews of an entire comic series from issue one to issue done was the bread and butter of Longbox Junk.  Unfortunately, my free time at work (where I write these) tends to fluctuate in a big way. . .especially in summer. . .and Longbox Junk sort of gravitated toward single issue reviews with some mini-series thrown in here and there.
BUT. . .
Here we are. . .getting ready to jump into the 19 issues of Marvel's 1980 - 1983 run of King Conan.  By my former standards, it's not a long series.  I mean, I reviewed all SEVENTY issues of DC's Pre-New52 Jonah Hex run, right?  But for getting back into series reviews a little bit, 19 issues feels okay to start with.
The series at hand came out when Conan hit what was probably his comic book high with Marvel holding the license.  They had this title, Savage Sword of Conan, and the tentpole Conan the Barbarian series all on the stands at the same time (not to mention a Conan newspaper strip).  
There's a lot written on the other series, but not much about King Conan.  I'm not sure WHY, but there's almost nothing about this comic series on the internet beyond the most basic information about publishing dates and creative team credits.  Maybe because it came out in the 80s? I don't know.
Which is why I'm reviewing it.
King Conan.  Let's do this!


Marvel (1980)

PART ONE: Issues 1-5
(March 1980)
COVER: John Buscema
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Ernie Chan
While on a hunting trip, King Conan of Aquilonia's first-born son and heir, Prince Conn, is taken captive by a mysterious old woman.  While searching for his son, Conan discovers a message telling him to follow the sign of the white hand to the northern land of Hyperborea if he wants Prince Conn returned alive.  And so Conan sets forth alone.
After fighting his way through dangerous marshes on the road to Hyperborea, Conan is led to a dark fortress, where he is reunited with his son.  The captive King and Prince soon discover the hand behind the plot to be none other than a foe from Conan's past, the sorcerer Thoth-Amon!  
Now at the head of a powerful group of wizards called The Black Circle, the capture of King Conan is part of a plan to ruin the Western Kingdoms.  Conan and Conn are led before Thoth-Amon and other leaders of the Black Circle, where Conan is forced to fight their fanatic followers for their amusement.

During the fight, Conan manages to escape and wreak havoc on the gathered sorcerers, killing them all except Thoth-Amon, who manages to escape just before Conan's right hand man, Prospero, and a band of the King's Guard arrive.
Conan has rescued his son and eliminated a threat on his northern border, but he has been made aware of the bigger threat of Thoth-Amon and his Black Circle.  What will they do next?
The End.
THIS is how you start a comic series!  This first issue kicks in the door with action, adventure, and intrigue.  It's everything a Conan fan could possibly want in a comic!
The definitive Marvel Conan team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema start this series off in grand style with a story that is engaging to read and wonderful to look at from the first page to the last!  
There is absolutely NOTHING I don't like about this issue.  It's pure Conan fun, and it makes me want to get right into the next issue.  What a great start!
(June 1980)
COVER: John Buscema
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Ernie Chan
After a failed attack on an Aquilonian border kingdom, King Conan suspects sorcery at hand.  He enlists the aid of a druid and sets forth with an army to the ruins of Nebthu, in Stygia.  He has learned from the druid that his enemy, Thoth-Amon was behind the failed attack and has his lair with the magicians of his Black Ring at Nebthu.
Arriving at the ruins of Nebthu and joined by his son, Conn, Conan discovers a secret door in a gigantic statue of a black jackal.  Conan and his company enter a twisted maze of tunnels beneath the ruins, eventually coming to a large arena, where Thoth-Amon and his black magicians finally spring their trap!
But Conan has brought his own magician. . .the druid.  And so, a battle between white magic and black ensues in the darkness while Stygian troops attack Conan's encamped men by surprise above!  Conan sways the sorcerous battle to his side when he reveals that he has brought the Heart of Ahriman. . .a powerful talisman that Thoth-Amon covets.
With his black wizards destroyed by the combined power of the druid's magic and the talisman, Thoth-Amon makes a hasty escape, but not before summoning a gigantic jackal monster!  
As Conan and company flee the huge beast and make their way to the surface, the monster attacks indiscriminately, mowing through the Stygian troops before returning to its hidden underground lair.
Despite taking heavy losses, Conan is determined to pursue Thoth-Amon and bring an end to his plots once and for all.  And so, Conan sets for with his son and the remains of his army for the mysterious southeastern land of Zembabwei, following the directions of the druid, who takes his leave of Conan.
To be Continued. . .
Thomas, Buscema, and Chan keep up the momentum of the first issue with a second that actually gives the reader even MORE action, adventure, and intrigue, backed up with incredible Bronze Age artwork!  This issue had me hooked even harder than the first, right from the opening page! 
So far, the two opening issues of this series have delivered everything I could ever want in a great Conan adventure, and it makes me want to get right into the next issue. . .so let's do it!
(September 1980)
COVER: John Buscema 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Danny Bulanadi
As they continue their pursuit of Thoth-Amon into the mysterious southlands, King Conan and his Aquilonian troops are taken by surprise during a night attack by flying lizard like creatures and their human riders!
During the attack, Conan and his son, Conn are taken prisoner and flown to the mysterious city of Zembabwei.  There they are taken before Thoth-Amon and his ally, the savage wizard-king,  Nenaunir.  Conan and Conn are sentenced to die. . .sacrificed to the snake , Damballah (the same serpent worshipped by Thoth-Amon as Set) during the Red Moon twelve nights hence!
While imprisoned in the dungeons beneath Zimbabwei, Conan makes friends with a prisoner in another cell named Mbega.  Mbega is the twin brother of Nenaunir, and has been imprisoned for attempting to revolt against his brother's iron-fisted rule.  
In the meantime, Conan's troop arrives at Zimbabwei after ten days.  Conan's friends Trocero and Pallantides despair at the heavily fortified city but hatch a plan to secretly infiltrate the fortress by way of the sewers using the rogue's skills of Murzio of Zingara. . .another of Conan's companions travelling with them.
On the eve of Conan and Conn's sacrifice, Murzio manages to find their cell in the dungeon, but is unable to unlock it.  Conan has the thief free Mbega instead, hoping that the King's brother can raise the population of the city against its hated ruler.
Conan and Conn are brought before Thoth-Amon, King Nenaunir, and the gathered priests of Zembabwei at the altar of the serpent Damballah.  As the moon turns blood red and the priests chant, Conan struggles to free himself and his son as the spirit of Damballah forms and begins to squeeze the life out of Conan!
While Conan struggles for his life against the serpent 's avatar, Conn manages to strike down King Nenaunir, ending the summoning spell and saving his father!  At the same time, Mbega and his partisans rush the altar and a fight ensues, with Conan's Aquilonian forces arriving to turn the tide of battle in favor of Mbega as Thoth-Amon once again flees.
In the end, Mbega takes control of Zembabwei.  Conan and his company of Aquilonians leave the city and head further south in dogged pursuit of Thoth-Amon, determined to end him once and for all!
To be continued. . .
Although this was another very enjoyable issue, it repeats a lot of elements from the first issue. . .Conan and his son taken prisoner by Thoth-Amon, with a desperate battle to escape breaking out and Conan's Aquilonian companions rushing in at the last moment to save the day, only for Thoth-Amon to escape in the confusion.   
Roy Thomas writes the story in an engaging way, with his usual fantastic turns of phrase, but hopefully he isn't already starting to fall into a story rut on only the THIRD issue!
The series also changes inker on this issue.  He has a different style than Ernie Chan that knocks the art down half a notch.  It's still really good. I mean, it's John Buscema's pencils.  Of course it's going to be good.  How could it not be?  But Ernie Chan's inks are just SO complimentary to Buscema's work that any change just sort of hits the eye wrong.  The art isn't bad by any means, I just prefer Chan's inks.
All in all, this was another good issue.  I'm just a bit concerned by what looks like a story rut starting to form.  Let's see what the next issue holds!
(December 1980)
COVER: John Buscema 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Danny Bulanadi
Still in pursuit of Thoth-Amon, King Conan is directed by a wizard to travel further into the southern jungles, and then east, to the Land of No Return at the very edge of the known world, where the serpent folk of old ruled long before the coming of men.
And so, Conan sets forth with a host of King Mbega's (from last issue) best men, as well as a group of Amazon warrior-women led by Nzinga. . .the daughter of an old acquaintance of Conan from his younger days.  
Conan leads the expedition from the air alongside his son and Mbega's best scouts, riding the serpent-like wyverns used to capture them in the previous issue.
After many days of travel, Conan's expedition finally comes in sight of landmarks given to them by the wizard in Zembabwei. . .a huge waterfall and a cliff face in the shape of a skull.  But as the King and his wyvern-riders investigate, a mysterious weakness befalls them and their flying mounts tumble to the ground!
In a hidden valley below, Conan and company discover an ornate palace.  They are greeted by a mysterious band of women from the palace and the cave city beyond called Yanyoga.  Conan decides to take them up on their offer of hospitality. . .
As Conan and Mbega's scouts fall under some sort of spell during the following days of drinking and wanton vice, only Conan's son, Conn is able to keep a somewhat clear head.  As one of the beautiful women attempts to seduce the young prince, he sees her reflection and is horrified to learn that the women are actually serpent-folk in disguise!
Mbega's warriors on foot, as well as Nzinga's Amazons arrive in time to help young Conn fight his way through the palace.  Thoth-Amon is spotted with the serpent queen and Conan's friend Trocero presses the attack on their long-sought quarry, though King Conan is nowhere to be seen. The wizard disappears from sight, escaping once again!  
King Conan wakes on a mysterious shore and finds himself in the company of his foe, Thoth-Amon!
The wizard gloats and taunts Conan, who attacks him.  But as he touches the wizard, Conan finds himself transported to a strange realm where the two enemies battle as spirits!
Conan fights well, but finds himself on the losing side of the spirit battle, but unknown to Thoth-Amon, Conan's son has managed to follow the two through Thoth-Amon's portal.  And with an enchanted knife given to him in Zembabwei, Conn kills Thoth-Amon and ends the fight on the spirit plane, dragging both Thoth-Amon and his father back to the real world, where Thoth-Amon dies and crumbles to dust!
In the end, Conan takes Thoth-Amon's ring of power and throws it into the sea before heading back to the lair of the serpent-folk alongside his son to help his allies finish off the savage creatures, satisfied that Conn is becoming a warrior worthy of being his heir.
The End. . .To be continued.
Okay then, there it is.  The big extra-sized finish to the four-issue "Chasing Thoth-Amon" opening story arc.  All in all, a fine ending indeed!  Yeah, there's still some concern that the series is falling into a "Conan gets captured every issue" story rut, but then again, Roy Thomas is able to make even the weakest story sing with his outstanding writing.  The framework may be flimsy, but Thomas makes the "final" battle between Conan and Thoth-Amon an epic adventure!
On the art side of things, John Buscema provides visuals every bit as epic as Thomas' writing. . .which comes as no surprise to me or anyone else who is a fan of Buscema's work.  What IS a bit surprising is that Danny Bulanadi seems to have course-corrected his inks a bit to be more complimentary to Buscema's pencils.  I still prefer Ernie Chan's inks on Conan, but Bulanadi makes an admirable effort to step into Chan's shoes.
Overall, an epic end to the first story arc, with writing that drips with adventure and art that takes the reader to another world for a while.  What more could a Conan fan want? Let's get into the next issue and see if this creative team can keep up the great work!
(March 1981)
COVER: John Buscema
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Danny Bulanadi (Ernie Chan?)
As a weary King Conan and his Aquilonian troops make the long journey back home after almost a year away in pursuit of Thoth-Amon, Prince Conn asks Count Trocero for a tale of his father's early days as King to pass the time. 
The rest of this tale is told as a flashback to before Conn was born. . .
It was the night of a great feast in the Aquilonian capital of Tarantia.  But the festivities are interrupted by the kidnapping of Queen Zenobia by a mysterious flying creature!  King Conan declares that he will no longer be King of Aquilonia until he has retrieved his queen and had his vengeance.  
And so, leaving the kingdom and its armies in the hands of his most loyal advisers, Trocero and Prospero, Conan sets forth alone to the desert city of Khanyria, seeking a wizard of old acquantance, Pelias of Koth, intending to search for clues using his magic powers.
Unknown to Conan, a court spy has learned of Conan's destination and that he's travelling alone.  The information is given to a rebellious noble supporter of Aquilonia's former King and a trap is set!
Several days ride later, Conan arrives in Khanyria.  Almost immediately upon entering the city, he is lured to an ambush in a tavern.  Conan manages to defeat seven men after a brutal battle, but is astonished to find that he recognizes several of them from previous adventures.  He is determined to find out who brought together such a motley crew and why. . .but AFTER he finds Zenobia.
In the yellow stone tower of the wizard Pelias of Koth, Conan is greeted as an old friend and Pelias agrees to help him find who kidnapped Zenobia.  Using a magical mirror, Pelias summons a vision of another wizard. . .one who is aware he is being watched!  Conan saves them both by breaking the magic mirror, then demands answers.
A shaken Pelias tells Conan that the plot goes far beyond a mere kidnapping.  Since he has become King of Aquilonia, Conan has disrupted or delayed many plots and plans for conquest of the Hyborian lands without even knowing it.  The powerful wizard in the mirror is Yah Chieng, who dwells in the far away land of Khitai.  He is behind the kidnapping of Zenobia as a means to lure Conan away from Aquilonia and destroy him.
Conan refuses to abandon his vengeance despite knowing he's walking into a trap.  To aid him against the powerful magic of Yah Chieng, Pelias gives Conan a legendary magical ring in his possession. . .the Ring of Rakhamon!  But before he can use the power of the ring, Conan must pass the ring's test.
And so, Conan is pulled into a strange world of spirits and finds himself in mortal combat against a powerful creature.  A desperate battle follows, but Conan finally prevails through sheer strength of will, and the Ring of Rakhamon submits to him.
Now armed with knowledge of who was behind Zenobia's kidnapping, magical aid, and a destination, Conan sets forth with the rising sun for the mysterious and distant land of Khitai!
To be continued. . .
Usually when it comes to reviews of full comic series, I run into diminishing returns the further I get into it.  Normally by issue five or six (if even THAT long) I start seeing a decline or a plateau.  But not here!
Not only does this series continue to maintain a high level of quality, but the fifth issue is the best so far!  It's a pretty rare thing to see a series actually IMPROVE in later issues, but King Conan's fantastic creative team pulls it off with style.
Roy Thomas continues to grab and pull me into Conan's savage world with page after page of superbly-written adventure and intrigue.  John Buscema brings Thomas' words to life with fantastic imagery that's simply a feast for the eyes from the first page to the last.  THIS is what a great Conan comic is all about! THIS, right here. This issue has everything a Conan fan could want.  I can't wait to see what happens next!
A note about the art in this issue before I finish here.  Danny Bulanadi is credited on the masthead as inker here, and I was pretty amazed at the way he continued to successfully step up and try to match the unmatchable Ernie Chan.  Bulandi is also credited on the Grand Comics Database (GCD)  and elsewhere the stats for this comic are listed as the inker as well.  BUT. . .in the letter column for issue #7 there's an indication that the inks are actually done by Ernie Chan.  
With the lack of information about this series beyond raw creative team credits out there, I have a suspicion after comparing this issue to earlier ones that Chan actually did most of the inks (if not all), and that the information online isn't accurate and is based on an error Marvel made in the credits for the original issue back in 1981 and has just been copied from place to place online without actually checking.  
Does anyone care?  Probably not.  But I like to think that Longbox Junk reviews add to the general body of comic knowledge as regards comics not many (if ANY) reviews have been done of, so there's that. 
Let's wrap up this first part now.


I think you can probably tell from the individual reviews above that I had a lot of fun reading these first five issues of King Conan.  Roy Thomas and John Buscema are a hard creative team to beat when it comes to Conan.  I'm not even sure if they CAN be beaten!
I've already spent quite a bit of time above singing the praises of Thomas and Buscema's work on this series so far, but I was trying to keep the reviews sort of short so this didn't turn into a total scroll bomb (not sure how well I suceeded, but it's the thought that counts, I guess).  So in this wrap up, I'll touch on a few things I really liked about this series so far that I didn't mention above.
First, I love the HEFT of these issues!  They're double-sized and that extra page space gives these stories room to breath and be epic.  These are comics that are simply packed with awesome Conan adventure.  The reviews above are REALLY condensed sketches of what is actually in the pages.  There's so much story in each issue that it would probably take a YEAR in modern comics to cover each one of them.  
The second thing I loved about these issues that I didn't touch on above is that each one of these (except the last one) comics can be read on their own as an individual awesome Conan story without reading the others.  They're all tied together, but they can also be enjoyed separately.  This is probably because this series was published quarterly, with just four issues coming out per year.  So if you do spot one of these in the bargain bin, don't worry too much about not knowing what happened before or after.  The whole story is great, but the individual parts are great on their own.  I like that a lot!
Oddly enough, considering what I JUST said above, the third thing I loved about these issues was that they have a continuity with OTHER Conan comics. . .particularly Savage Sword of Conan.  All through these issues there are characters and references to Conan's previous adventures.  For example, in the fourth issue, the leader of Conan's Amazon allies is Nzinga, the daughter of an Amazon Queen Conan met in Savage Sword of Conan #4.  
There's a lot of effort in these issues to tie the series into continuity with what came before.  There's even a few references to Marvel's short-lived Kull the Conqueror series!  So while these issues can be enjoyed as stand-alone stories, they can ALSO be enjoyed by those who love following those editorial continuity notes to discover the whole story. 
Overall, I really enjoyed these first few issues of King Conan.  If you are a Conan fan then I heartily recommend you check them out if you haven't already.  Each oversized issue is packed from cover to cover with awesome Conan adventure and wonderfully savage arwork.  These first five issues are truly some premium Bronze Age sword and sorcery comics.
Up Next. . .
Let's see if Marvel can keep up the quality as King Conan continues!  Looking ahead, I see some creative team changes coming, so we'll see what happens.  
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I just keep on writing comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!

October is done!  Halloween is here, and that means the end of this year's Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party!  Not too bad this year. . .I got 16 spooky reviews done.  I think that's more than I did all this summer!
I hope you enjoyed reading the Halloween Horror entries as much as I enjoyed writing them.  It's nice to just relax with a spooky comic book, good OR bad. . .but now it's time to get back to Longbox Junk business as usual.
Before I get back into digging random stuff out of the bargain bins, how about one more Halloween Horror review?  Most of you won't see this until the 1st because I tend to post things late at night, but I AM writing it at 11 p.m. Halloween night, so it counts. . .BECAUSE I SAY IT COUNTS!
One more for the road. . .Let's do it!


DC (1973)


COVER: Nick Cardy
What a great Halloween cover. . .courtesy of the late, great Nick Cardy!  Can it get ANY more Halloween than a witch straddling Locomotive #13 while she guides it flying into the gloomy grey sky?  This may not be the greatest comic cover in general, but as far as HALLOWEEN covers go, it's definitely a winner.
Let's get inside this thing!
FOUR stories in here for your two thin dimes!  That's one of the things I love about older comics. . .good or bad, they're STUFFED with four color fun!  These days, you pay four bucks for a little part of ONE story in a comic.  But THAT'S a rant for another day!  Let's check out these stories. . .
SCRIPT:  Carl Wessler
PENCILS:  Alfredo Alcala
INKS: Alfredo Alcala
The tenants at Mrs. Haggerty's boarding house begin to disappear one by one, leaving only their best clothes behind.  The killer is eventually revealed to be Mr. Duncan, a dealer in used clothes.
He is caught by the police digging a grave in the yard, but as he unearths the other graves there is only old clothes.  Duncan is committed to an insane asylum. Were the murders real, or the delusions of a madman?
This story is a little confusing to me.  It seems almost like two stories mashed together.  But maybe confusion is what the writer intended from a story that may or may not be the delusion of an insane man.  
BUT. . .
While the story is a bit of a headscratcher, the art is simply fantastic!  For MY money, Alfredo Alcala is one of the great, unsung comic artists of the Bronze Age!  His finely detailed work can elevate even the most mundane story into a feast for the eyes.  Just LOOK at the opening page I scanned above.  The shading, the detail. . .just SO great! 
SCRIPT:  Gerry Conway & Sal Amendola
PENCILS: Sal Amendola
INKS: Sal Amendola
We follow a man named Larry through his miserable life.  Larry is a bit of a clumsy loser, and to make things worse, he is plagued by a recurring nightmare of falling toward some unknown darkness.  Eventually, the dream drives him to madness and an overdose of sleeping pills. 
But when Larry wakes up, he finds himself the ruler of a kingdom on an alien world.  A mighty warrior married to a beautiful queen.  He has been in a coma for the past several years after being poisoned but is now awakened and ready to take his rightful place as King.
Which life is real?
Not a bad little story.  Maybe a bit thin, but interesting.  The "twist" was a bit of a surprise, which is a GOOD thing when you've read as many of these anthologies as I have.
But, like the first story, the art is the REAL star of the show here.  It's a less realistic and more stylized and experimental art style than Alcala's, but very visually interesting.  It makes great use of odd angles, different panel structures, and deep shadows.  So once again, interesting art elevates the story a bit more than one would think.  Nicely done.
SCRIPT:  Carl Wessler
PENCILS:  Win Mortimer
INKS: Win Mortimer
Stan and Lionel are competing for the same Vice President spot at their company, but while Stan chooses to let his work speak for itself, Lionel decides sabotage is the best way to the position.  After Lionel destroys an important file, the despondent Stan is hit by a bus.  As he dies, he swears vengeance on Lionel, promising to inhabit the body of someone close to him in order to destroy him.
With Stan out of the way, Lionel gains the coveted Executive position, but as the weeks pass, strange accidents keep happening.  Lionel eventually becomes convinced that Stan is possessing the body of the company's President, and his behavior get him fired.  As he leaves the building, he falls down an elevator shaft to his death. . .realizing at the last moment that Stan had possessed HIS body.
This story feels more like filler than anything else.  It's just not that interesting.  A pretty by the numbers "ghost revenge" tale with an obvious "twist" ending.  It's not a BAD story, it's just not really engaging.
Unfortunately, the great art that elevated the first two stories isn't to be found here.  The art is serviceable, in a workmanlike way.  It illustrates the events of the story but doesn't try much harder than that.  Like the story, the art isn't necessarily BAD, it's just not very engaging.
SCRIPT:  Carl Wessler
PENCILS:  Gerry Talaoc
INKS: Gerry Talaoc
Richard Dolan is a chronic complainer.  Nothing makes him happy.  When he finds himself on a mysterious train crowded with passengers heading for an unknown destination, his constant complaints wear on the nerves of those around him.
When the train arrives at its destination, Richard is unimpressed with the bright, sunny weather and the overwhelming happiness of everyone he meets.  He decides he wants to return to the dreary streets of the city that he's at least familiar with.  He secretly boards the train again as it pulls out of the station to return.
In the end, we see that Dolan was in the hospital, presumed dead, but now fighting for his life.  The train had taken him to Paradise, but Dolan would rather be happy complaining about his life than anything else.
Not a bad little story.  It's a well-written character study with a "twist" ending that I didn't see coming, so yeah. . .a pretty good read.  I actually found this story to be the best of the batch.  I've been known to be a bit of a complainer myself, so I can sort of relate.
As far as the art goes, it's pretty good.  I like the dark inks and realism, but it's missing the supreme detail of Alcala's art in the first story and the experimental style of Amendola in the second.  It's not quite as workmanlike and uninspired as Mortimer's in the third, though.
Overall, a pretty good story.  


A sort of mixed bag for this last bit of Halloween Horror fun.  Two so-so stories saved by fantastic artwork up front. A very workmanlike story that feels like filler in the third slot.  A good story with decent art to finish things up. 
 All in all, a pretty good issue.  Even the "worst" story in here wasn't actually BAD.  More like just sort of . . .there.  I've definitely seen worse.  To be fair, I've also seen better, but for a nice Halloween read I can certainly recommend this issue to anyone just looking for a pretty good "twist ending" style comic book to read.  
If you're a fan of Bronze Age artwork, then I say definitely give the two opening stories a look.  Alfredo Alcala is quickly becoming one of my favorite unsung Bronze Age artists.  Any time I see a comic with some of his distinctive style of art now, I buy it!  So far, my favorite work by Alcala is in Weird Western Tales (#16-17), but anything by Alcala is worth a look in MY book.
And there you have it.  One last bit of Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun for 2022.  Not a bad way to end things for this year.  
Up Next. . .
Back to Longbox Junk business as usual when I return to the review of all 19 issues of the King Conan run from 1980 that I put off for the Halloween fun.
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where nobody asked me to write any of these comic reviews!

The Longbox Junk 2022 Halloween Horror party is just about over. . .but not quite yet!  There's still a couple of days left before I wrap it up and get back to Longbox Junk business as usual.  Until then, how about another spooky retro review?
So, there I was. . .on Facebook browsing through the posts provided by the fine and friendly folk of OLD GUYS WHO LIKE OLD COMICS .  And here's a free plug. . .if you have ANY love for all things comic book-related from days gone by (as in, before 1986), then join this group!  It's one of the best comic groups out there, and I'll sing their praises any old time. Plug over. 
There I was browsing the posts of one of my favorite Facebook groups and I saw someone had posted a spooky comic book cover.  I said to myself, "Hey! I have that one!"  And so here we are, because why not share what's INSIDE the comic too?  That's what Longbox Junk is all about!
We're heading back to 1973, folks! Let's GOOOOOOO!!


Dell (1973)

COVER: Jack Sparling
Jack Sparling was a Dell and Gold Key mainstay.  If you have any Dell or Gold Key comics in your collection, you've probably got some Sparling in there.  This cover isn't his best work (my personal favorite is probably Emergency #3), but it's a solid cover.  Not bad. . .I just like Sparling's painted covers better. Let's get inside!
Four original stories in this one.  That's just a nickle apiece!
Let's give each one their own turn.
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
The Ghost of an ancient Egyptian King shows two archaeologists where ruins they've missed are in a valley that is about to be flooded.  The Ghost also convinces the disbelieving Engineer in charge of the project to delay long enough for the treasures of the hidden temple to be found and preserved.

Meh.  A pretty bland and forgettable story.  The ending is a little abrupt and anticlimactic.  Sparling's art is pretty good.  Like the cover, not his best work, but solid visual storytelling.  An underwhelming start to this issue.
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
After a U.S. Navy Captain destroys a sub on the last day of WWII just before receiving notice that the war is over, he is consumed by guilt for the death of the men he killed.  He spends his lifetime trying to make amends. . .even going so far as to move to Japan and adopt the families of the submarine crew.
When he dies and is buried at sea, his ghost joins the ghostly crew of the sub and together they bring the wrecked ship home so they may all rest in peace.

Unfortunately, another pretty bland and forgettable story.  It's not BAD, it's just sort of. . .there.  Sparling's art is once again the high point of the story and even that seems sketchy and rushed in places.
*sigh* This isn't going well, so far.
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
When an old man named Horace is killed during a robbery in broad daylight, four witnesses to the crime give various reasons why they didn't help him when they could have.  Horace's spirit rises from the grave, determined to teach them a lesson in caring.
As the years go by, Horace's ghost helps each one of the witnesses survive a life-or-death situation, revealing himself to them so they know it was the man who they let die helping them live.  In the end, the four witnesses do indeed learn how to care.
Yet another bland and forgettable story.  Once again, the art by Sparling is about the only saving grace. . .and once again, this isn't even his best work.  So disappointing.
I don't have high hopes for the last story, but here we go anyway.
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
INKS: Jack Sparling
After Carrol's best friend, Brit is killed in a car wreck, she remembers an urban legend about a monastery in Oregon where people who are supposedly dead live.  Following a mysterious hearse, Carrol discovers the monastery and the ghost of her friend!
But as she rushed toward Brit, Carrol falls off a cliff and dies.  Now she and Brit live together at the monastery. . .forever.

Not only is this another disappointing story, but it's also probably the worst of the bunch.  It really doesn't make much sense.  Even Sparling's art is weaker than anyplace else in the issue.  This whole story just feels rushed and sort of thrown together. Not a good end for the issue at all.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: They can't ALL be winners.
This issue isn't a winner.  
The main problem here is the writing.  It's bland and uninteresting through the whole thing, giving the reader four stories that will be forgotten moments after reading them.  The writer of this issue is unknown, and it's hardly surprising that they didn't want to take credit for such a lackluster offering.
One would THINK that with four stories, at least ONE would be decent, but no.  And it's not that the stories are necessarily bad, it's that they're all just sort of. . .there.  
This isn't a BAD comic. . .it's just so forgettable that I can't think of anything to recommend it for beyond some pretty solid art from Jack Sparling, and even THAT isn't his best work by a long shot.
It's extremely disappointing for me writing this pretty poor review because I KNOW that it's probably the first, last, and only review that will ever be written about this issue.  This is it.  Truthfully, it makes me a little sad just thinking about it.  This issue gets ONE review in almost 50 years and it's not a great one.
I guess I'll just say it again:  They can't all be winners.
Up Next. . .
I think I can squeeze in a little bit more Halloween Horror fun before the end of the month!
Be there or be square.

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Welcome to Longbox Junk! You want comic reviews you never asked anyone to write? You're in the right place!

The time is short.  The witching hour is almost upon us.  Halloween is just a few days away, but the Longbox Junk Halloween Party is still going!  LET'S DANCE!
Man-Thing is one of those Marvel characters that's been around for a while but isn't really known about by casual comic culture fans.  He's had a few short ongoing series in the past, but these days he just kind of pops up every now and then before shuffling back off to the swamp.  So, he's not the most visible Marvel character, but Man-Thing's got his fans. . .and I'm one of them!
That said, Man-Thing has recently had a moment in the popular culture spotlight with an unexpected live appearance on the Werewolf By Night Disney+ special (And if you haven't seen it yet. . .it's a fantastic show. Check it out.  Go! NOW!).  So, since he's getting a little bit of attention this year, how about we invite Man-Thing to the party?
Let's do it!



Marvel MAX (2008)

COVER: Kaare Andrews
SCRIPT:  Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
PENCILS: Kano & Nick Percival (Framing Sequence)
INKS: Kano & Nick Percival (Framing Sequence)
I like it!  It's not the BEST Man-Thing cover out there (that would probably be Frank Brunner's cover for Man-Thing #1), but I like the Golden Age pulp mag homage.  The giant red title block is certainly an eye-catcher.  Man-Thing himself is pretty nasty looking. . .a bit more on the horror side than we normally see him.  Not bad.  Let's get inside!
We begin with an introductory framing sequence.  Digger, the former "host" of Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness, is our narrator. . .
Deep in the swamps of the Florida panhandle, researcher Ted Sallis, along with his lab assistant/ fiancée, Ellen Brandt, and fellow scientist, Eric Schist, are hard at work on a secret government project to recreate the lost Super-Soldier serum that gave Captain America his powers during World War II. 
Their work is almost complete and government agents are due the next day to take their research to Washington D.C. Ted is relieved that the end is near and is looking forward to his and Ellen's marriage. 
Late that night, Ted hears strange noises from a shack in the swamp behind their secret lab.  When he investigates, he is horrified to discover mutated creatures imprisoned within!  Eric arrives and tells Ted that he has started human trials despite Ted saying they aren't ready. . .and the creatures are swamp dwellers that he has been experimenting on.
Ted protests and threatens to reveal Eric's unethical experiments to their government employers.  Eric taunts Ted, revealing that they have been working for the terrorist group, A.I.M. the whole time, and that Ted is but a in their plans!
Ted manages to knock Eric out, then rushes to the lab to gather his research and the only sample of the new formula.  He plans to escape and take the research to the government.  But as he hastily gathers his notes, Ted is confronted by Ellen. . .who holds him at gunpoint and reveals that she is also an A.I.M. agent!
Ted realizes his life has been a lie when Eric returns, and he sees the obvious affection Ellen has for him.  Desperately, he dives out a window and runs into the swamp, but is shot in the back by Ellen as he flees. . .
As he sinks into the muck, dying, Ted swallows the vial of experimental formula.  Something happens that night. . .the formula somehow reacts with the swamp water and somehow Ted rises from the grave, but not as a man. . .as a thing! A MAN-THING!
Late that night, the hulking monster that was Ted Sallis returns to the secret lab.  After freeing the mutated humans from the hidden shack, he bursts into the lab, stunning Ellen and Eric with his terrifying and inhuman appearance!  
Man-Thing quickly kills Eric, then turns to Ellen. . .but something stops him.  Is there still a part of Ted Sallis inside the creature that feels pity as Ellen begs for her life?  If there is, it's gone again in a moment as he reaches out and horribly burns the woman with his very touch!
And, having his revenge, the Man-Thing leaves Ellen alive and horribly disfigured as he walks back into the dark water of the swamp, leaving his former life behind.
The End. . .To Be Continued.
What we have here is a modern retelling of Man-Thing's origin.  And I have to say that it's a darn fine read!  It's a simple story that introduces Man-Thing quite well, leaning HARD into the horror elements of the character.  It's nicely written from the perspective of Digger telling the tale and has enough meat on the bone to not only be a good standalone tale, but to make me want to see what happens next!
The art is a great match for the dark tale of betrayal and revenge, with lots of shadows and fine detail.  The artist has a little trouble with human faces.  You can definitely see that his wheelhouse is in the macabre and monstrous elements of the story.  His version of Man-Thing is powerful and terrifying. . .a force of nature unleashed!  That said, I sort of wish that the artist who painted the framing story would have done the whole thing.  The painted Digger sequences are simply superb!


Although this is the first issue of a four-issue mini, it stands alone quite nicely.  It's a great modern re-telling of the origin of Man-Thing that I would certainly recommend to anyone wanting to know about the character without having to get into expensive collections or more expensive Bronze Age back issues.  It's the same basic story, but in a modern style and at bargain bin prices.  WIN!
I would also recommend this issue to any horror comic fans who are just looking for a decent little one-shot story with some dark monster fun.  Yeah, it's a Marvel Universe character, but there's nothing superhero about THIS story.
Overall, this is a nice little nugget of Longbox Junk gold!  It's the kind of thing I love to find while bargain bin diving.  It's not really "worth" anything to collectors, but it's definitely worth picking up if you should spot it.
Up Next. . .
There's not much October left, but we're turning up the music and keeping the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party going!
Be there or be square.

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap, and the reviews are FREE!

HEY-O! It's the thirteenth entry in this year's Longbox Junk Halloween Horror party!
So, to mark the occasion, let's take a look at a Friday the 13th comic book.
I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of the Friday the 13th movies.  They're okay and I'll watch them, but they aren't exactly the kind of thing I'll purposely look for, and I'm no expert on the timelines and trivia of the franchise.  The movies to me are just okay.
Don't get me wrong. . .there's nothing wrong with it at all if you happen to be the biggest fan of Friday the 13th there is.  We're all fans of something and that's what makes the world a great place in my book.
Back in 2007 Wildstorm (DC) got the comic rights to Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Nightmare on Elm Street.  They WERE going to try and set up a whole horror comic mini "universe" with rebooted ongoing monthly series for all three franchises. 
 How it ended up was that the comics weren't as popular as they THOUGHT they would be, so the ongoing monthly titles were quietly changed to miniseries and future projects were standalone one shots and minis until the whole thing just sort of faded away after a while. . . another failed and forgotten project in the wonderful world of comics.
What we have here is the first issue of the Friday the 13th series.  Let's take a look inside and see if we can find out why this title only lasted six issues.  Was it just a bad break for a good comic, like I've seen quite a few times?  Or does this series deserve its current home in the bargain bin?
Let's find out!




COVER: Ryan Sook
SCRIPT: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
PENCILS: Adam Archer
INKS: Peter Guzman
Ryan Sook is a great modern comic artist, and he doesn't disappoint here!  It's a simple, detailed portrait of the iconic slasher, Jason Voorhees. I really like the overall composition, with the unusual angle of view on Jason and the victim reflected in his machete. No doubt about it, this is a fantastic Halloween cover!  Let's see what's inside. . .
We begin with a short prologue.  A young blonde woman is being chased through the forest by Jason Voorhees.  She stumbles into the road, where an elderly couple find her and take her to the local hospital.  

Later, we see that she's incoherent and lashes out at anyone coming near.  The doctor tells the Sheriff that he'll probably never be able to get her to talk about what happened at camp Crystal Lake.
Flashing back to two weeks previously, we are introduced to a group of young men and women making their way to Camp Crystal Lake.  They've been hired to clean and prepare the camp for a re-opening.
The new owner explains that he plans to make a big profit from the camp's deadly history, exploiting the reputation of "Camp Blood" by appealing to those who enjoy the thrill of staying in a place where multiple gruesome murders have been committed.
We follow the young workers as they make themselves comfortable in their new temporary home.  While some explore the cabins, a group decides to go swimming in the lake.  One of them, a bit of a social outcast, has researched the history of the camp and tells the rest of them the gruesome details of Camp Crystal Lake.
As the rest listen to the history of the camp, one of the group goes swimming.  To her horror, she finds herself being dragged down into the depths by (what I assume are) the spirits of those killed over the years at the camp.
The rest notice her struggling and manage to pull her out of the water, but it's too late.  She's drowned. Camp Crystal Lake has claimed another victim!
To be continued. . .
Okay. . .Hmmm. . .  Let's break it on down!
When it comes to first issues of a new series, I have a pretty low bar for what I consider success.
Two things.  Just TWO things!  You'd be surprised how hard it seems to be for publishers to get over that low bar.
 First, does it introduce the characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way?  In other words, can I just come right in on the first issue and understand what's going on?  Second, does it make me want to read the next issue?
This issue spends a lot of page space on exposition regarding the history of Camp Crystal Lake.  Truth be told, this issue is MOSTLY setup and introduction.  Not that it's a bad thing. . .after all, this WAS supposed to be an ongoing monthly instead of a six-issue mini.  
So, I'll give it a half and half on the first one.  It does a good job of introducing the characters and their situation. . .unfortunately, the characters just aren't that interesting.  You KNOW from the prologue that all of them are going to die except one.  This doesn't put much of a burden on the writer to make the characters interesting.
As far as the second point goes.  Does this make me want to read the next issue?  Well. . .not really.  It's sort of bland, while at the same time, it tries a little TOO hard to be "adult" with profanity liberally sprinkled throughout (see the page scans above.  I had to edit them because there is literally not one page that doesn't have profanity on it).  
I'm a former Marine. . .I KNOW my swear words.  I even still use them now and then when my wife isn't around.  I ALSO know that profanity is like black pepper. . .a little sprinkle is fine, but too much ruins the flavor.  There's a little too much pepper in this one.  They try too hard to spice up a pretty bland and uninteresting story.
As far as the art goes.  It's. . .okay.  If I had to describe it in one word, that word would be "Serviceable".  It helps tell the story but doesn't try to do anything over that bare minimum requirement.  About the only standout moment is a nice double page spread of the first victim being dragged down into the lake I forgot to put above, so I'll put it here. . .
But other than that, the art is just sort of. . .there.  I have to admit that IS a nice double pager, but that's it for good art moments.


Truthfully, this issue doesn't really have much going for it unless you happen to be a Friday the 13th superfan.  If you ARE, then I think you'll definitely like this series.  If you aren't, then it's probably safe to say that you can skip this one and read some better horror comics that are out there.
With most of the issue being taken up with exposition and background, it DOES do a good job of introducing the characters and their situation.  Too bad both are sort of lackluster.  Aside from the fantastic Ryan Sook cover and a nice double page spread, the art is just sort of there. . .telling the story. . .not trying very hard to do anything else.
Overall, I can see why this series didn't really take off.  It didn't get an opening issue that would hook anybody but big fans of all things Friday the 13th.  For casual readers, it's very skippable.
Up Next. . .
It ain't over until it's over!  MORE Longbox Junk Halloween Horror to come!
Be there or be square.

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!

October is almost done. . .Halloween is almost here!  But the Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Party isn't over just yet, folks!  It's been a pretty good party so far, but you know what will make it even better?  Frankenstein!  
Okay, nerds. . .OKAY!  Frankenstein's MONSTER.  Better?
Marvel has had a long and successful relationship with Dracula in their comic books, but it's easy to forget that they ALSO held the rights to Frankenstein for a while (I know. . .I know).  I have a couple of issues, so how about we take a look at one?
I'm cranking up the Longbox Junk time machine again for a trip back to 1973 and another Longbox Junk Halloween Horror Retro Review. . .featuring the one and only Frankenstein's MONSTER!  
AAARRR!! Fire BAD! Retro Review GOOD!  Let's do it!


Marvel (1973)

COVER: Mike Ploog
SCRIPT: Gary Friedrich
PENCILS: Mike Ploog
INKS: John Verpoorten
Now THAT'S a Bronze Age beauty right there!  Maybe not the greatest HALLOWEEN cover, but a great cover anyway.  Mike Ploog packs in so much detail and energy into this image that it almost seems to move!  The colors are great, I love the big chunky logo and hype text.  There's nothing I don't like about this cover!  They do NOT make 'em like this anymore.  Let's get inside!
As the Monster returns to civilization from the Arctic in search of the last living Frankenstein, he happens on a flaming boat and risks his life to save that of a woman tied to the mast. . .thus setting into motion a strange and tragic series of events, wherein lies the tale at hand.
Taking the unconscious woman to a nearby village, the Monster is shocked to see the villagers celebrating her death.  The woman revives long enough to tell the Monster that the entire village has come under the demonic possession of a mysterious man in black, and that they must flee!
Against the womans wishes, the Monster carries her to her home, where he is attacked by the woman's father!  As the man shouts that his daughter must die, the Monster defeats him and leaves the village with the woman, now convinced that she was telling the truth about the villagers being possessed by demons.
Wandering through the woods in search of sanctuary, the Monster finds a beautiful, secluded clearing hidden deep in the forest.  As the weeks pass, the woman, named Lenore, heals and grows stronger while the Monster finds himself falling in love with her.  
When he finally tells Lenore about his feelings, he is elated to find them returned!  For the first time in his miserable existence, the Monster knows love and joy!
But one day, upon awakening, the Monster finds Lenore has vanished!  Following her tracks, he finds signs of a fight and pieces of her clothing.  Continuing on the trail, the Monster discovers it leads back to the village. 
Convinced that Lenore has been captured by the possessed villagers, he waits until night and begins to search for her.  As he does, he witnesses a guard being brutally attacked by a wolf-like monster!  As he watches, he realizes that THIS is the creature that must have taken Lenore!  Filled with rage, the Monster attacks the wolf creature.
As the battle between the Monster and the wolf creature rages through the village, he manages to finally defeat it by using a silver sword belonging to Lenore's father, pulling it from the tree where it was lodged during their earlier battle.  But to the Monster's horror, the slain wolf creature transforms into the beautiful, beloved Lenore!
As the villagers surround the heartbroken Monster, he readies for a fight, but a man in black steps forward. . .a priest.  He gently tells the Monster that it was Lenore that was possessed by a demon, and that he knows the Monster is the true victim and not their enemy.
And so, the Monster leaves the village behind him, knowing that the only love he's ever known was a lie.  Now all that he has left is to continue on his journey to find the last living Frankenstein.

The End. . .To be continued.
I'm gonna come right out and say it. . .this comic was a GREAT read! 
Yeah, it follows the extremely well-worn story path of "The beautiful woman is actually the horrible monster", but Gary Friedrich puts so much emotion and pathos into it that you hardly notice until the (admittedly predictable) end of the story when the "twist" is revealed.  There is some seriously good writing here! It's engaging from the first page to the last.  You can definitely tell that Friedrich had his heart in writing this story.
On the art side of things. . .Mike Ploog delivers in a big way!  The art in this comic has such a sense of energy and motion that it almost seems to move across the page.  Every page is so full of wonderful detail that you just want to linger on for a moment or two extra before turning to the next one.  
Together, Friedrich and Ploog give the reader something really interesting and unusual.  I am definitely going to keep my eye out for more Frankenstein comics, especially if they can engage me like this one did.


When it comes to Bronze Age Marvel comics, I think of superheroes. . .Captain America, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Spider-Man. . .all the greats that made Marvel "Mighty".  But every now and then, I read a comic like this one that reminds me Marvel DID step outside the superhero box, and that there's some really great Marvel comics out there without a single spandex costume to be found!
The tale of Frankenstein's Monster is a tragic one, and writer Gary Friedrich leans into that with this dark story of hope torn from the Monster's grasping hand.  Artist Mike Ploog fills each page with fantastic, detailed art that perfectly complements the grim tale being told.
This comic is just a great read from cover to cover, no doubt about it.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great example of Bronze Age comic art and storytelling.  For fans of Frankenstein movies, books, etc. in general like myself, I'm going to say this issue is a must-read!  It's been collected a couple of times, so if you can't find the back issues, collected and online versions are out there.
Overall, this issue was a slam-bang winner, and probably the best of the bunch so far for this 2022 Longbox Junk Halloween party.  It's a shiny nugget of back issue gold!
Up Next. . .
Yep. . .you guessed it.  MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
Be there or be square.

- read more

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