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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed FULL of comic reviews nobody asked me to write!
 
It's that time of year again! October. . .the season of harvest, spooky fun, and questionable costume choices!  Here at Longbox Junk we're throwing a little Halloween party where I'm shining the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics in my collection with some supernatural flavor.  
 
This time out, I'm sending the Longbox Junk paper time machine back to the Bronze Age for a look at a comic book that Marvel insisted was actually a "Magazine" because it was a little bigger than a comic and printed in black and white. . .it was an earnest dodge of that pesky Comic Code, of course. 
 
 They put out  quite a few runs of these black and white "Magazines" , to varying degrees of success.  Most of them lasted a year or less.  The most enduring and popular being Savage Sword of Conan, which lasted until 1995 with an astounding 235 issues!  The series at hand only lasted for 10 regular issues plus an annual. Not close to SSOC level, but better than most of the others.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Monsters Unleashed #10. . .featuring that cadaverous cut up himself, FRANKENSTEIN! 
 
Let's do this!

MONSTERS UNLEASHED #10

MARVEL (1974)

 
COVER: Vicente Segrelles
 
THE COVER:
 
It's a very nicely painted cover, that's for sure!  The monster IS a bit horrific, but this actually looks more like a fantasy cover than a horror cover, with a sort of "Beowulf" feel to it.  That doesn't take away from this great piece of art one bit, though.  I always say that Gold Key and Dell had the best painted covers, but it looks like 70's Marvel was at least TRYING to give them a run for the money on their "Magazines" at least.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Three full stories and a one page space filler in this issue. . .with a very nice selection of Bronze Age comic talent on hand.  Just looking at the names on the credits makes me want to jump right in!
 
THEY MIGHT BE MONSTERS
(One Page)
SCRIPT: Tony Isabella
PENCILS: Pablo Marcos
 
A one page appetizer about an explorer who claimed to have seen a gigantic hairy monster-man in Africa. . .with the twist being that he was actually the first white man to have reported sighting a gorilla.
 
 
For a one page space filler I REALLY liked this!  Credit due to one of my favorite Bronze Age writers (Tony Isabella) for doing a lot in such a little space!  The art also knocked it out of the park, making this a fantastic opening for this comic. . .er. . .MAGAZINE.
 
A great start. . .let's get into the main course!

THE FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER: 
THE 11:10 TO MURDER
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Val Mayerik
 
During a journey without a destination that he knows of, Frankenstein's Monster boards a train and meets a young woman who shows him the kindness that few others ever have, and they become friends in a short time.
 
Suddenly, the train comes under attack by a group of gunmen aboard.  It seems that the President of the United States is aboard the train and is the target of an assassination attempt.  
 
The Monster's new friend insists that they do something to save the President, and so together they make their way through the train to the President's car, defeating any assassins they come across on the way.
 
It turns out that the President being on the train was just a ruse.  The Monster's friend tells him to run away before he gets blamed for all the dead men, and she stays behind to explain what happened.  But as the train leaves The Monster behind, one last assassin blows it up with a grenade, killing The Monster's new friend and leaving him once again alone.
 
 
Although the setup feels a bit forced, with the tale hinging entirely on the coincidence that The Monster somehow finds himself on the same train as the President, I really liked this story.  The spoken dialogue might be a little overblown in places, but the omniscient caption box narration running through the story itself isn't just some fine comic book writing, it's some fine writing period!  Doug Moench does a knockout job setting the scenes here.
 
On the art side, Val Mayerik (Who I know more from Howard the Duck than anything else) gives the story some dark and gritty Neal Adams-inspired flavor with his fantastic, detailed, grey-tone artwork.  Every panel on every page of this story is worth lingering over a moment!
 
Overall, despite some awkward story setup relying on a bit of eye-rolling coincidence, this is a very nice little nugget of Longbox Junk gold, with two serious Bronze Age comic talents coming together in a great way.
 
NEXT!
 
BEAUTY'S VENGEANCE
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Sanho Kim
 
After a fisherman rescues a mermaid, she promises that she will be his after one year if he returns home and doesn't find happiness.  As the year goes by, the fisherman only becomes more obsessed with the beauty of the mermaid, ignoring the growing love his homely housekeeper has for him.
 
Upon returning, the mermaid chastises the fisherman for obsessing over her outer beauty when there was a woman with great inner beauty right in front of him.  She turns into a water dragon and kills the fisherman, to the great sadness of his housekeeper, who was actually a mermaid herself.
 
 
Another great story courtesy of Doug Moench!  He imbues this tale with a dreamlike quality, as if it is a fable being told by a storyteller.  It's a pretty straightforward "Greedy person gets what is coming to them" tale with a supernatural/ Asian twist, but Moench's writing elevates it over the well-worn path that it travels.
 
Korean artist Sanho Kim brings the Asian flavor this story needs in a big way!  His unusual panel layouts and delicate, detailed lines are the perfect compliment to the dreamlike supernatural fable feel of the story.
 
Overall, another winner!  Once again, two great Bronze Age comic talents come together in one place to deliver a story that is captivating and memorable.  An unexpected nugget of Longbox Junk gold!
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE SERENITY STEALERS
SCRIPT: Tony Isabella & Chris Claremont
PENCILS: Tony DeZuniga
 
Greer Nelson (AKA Tigra, formerly The Cat) faces the first test of her new were-cat powers as she tracks a killer taking the form of a monstrous rat through the sewers of the city.  
 
Deep beneath the city, Tigra discovers an ancient vampiric being named Surisha who the Rat-Man worships by bringing her prey that she drains the life force from in order to maintain her youth and beauty.  In particular, she feeds off her victim's happiness and serenity.
 
During the ensuing battle, Tigra manages to turn Surisha's Rat-Man servant against her, destroying the vampire before Tigra kills him in turn, revealing to the reader at the end of it all that Surisha was powerless against Tigra because she knows no happiness or serenity.
 

Do you really need to look any further than the three names credited on this story to know that it's good?  You have Tony Isabella. . .creator of Black Lightning and writer of some of the best Ghost Rider issues of the original run (and one of my favorite Bronze Age writers).  You have Chris Claremont, the writer who brought the X-Men back to life and took them higher than Stan Lee ever imagined.  And on art, you have prolific Bronze Age great Tony DeZuniga, co-creator of one of my favorite comic characters of all-time, Jonah Hex. 
 
If you were looking for a Bronze Age all-star team to write a comic story, you couldn't do much better than this team right here!
 
As for the story itself, it's an interesting mash-up of superhero and supernatural that's everything you'd expect from this creative team.  It has over the top action combined with an introspective inner monologue as Tigra wonders exactly who and what she really is.  In the end, that inner turmoil haunting the character turns out to be what wins the fight for her instead of any powers or abilities she might have.
 
Overall, a great combination of talent gives us a great little supernatural superhero tale to end the issue.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Three for three!  Or really, four for four, if you count the one page Tony Isabella appetizer at the front of things.  But no matter HOW you count it, this comic. . .er, sorry. . .MAGAZINE is a great read from cover to cover!
 
I have a confession.  I'm not a fan of black and white comics.  Except for Savage Sword of Conan and getting on the Walking Dead train after #50 after the constant recommendation/ nagging of a friend, I usually let the B/W comics stay right in the bargain bin.
 
BUT. . .
 
Based on finally reading this comic (which I bought for the cover and have let sit for years unread), I think I might be interested in checking out some more of Marvel's Bronze Age Black and White "Magazines".  That says a lot about the quality of the stories and art in this issue right there.
 
Overall, Monsters Unleashed #10 is a very nice nugget of Longbox Junk gold.  I can easily recommend this one to anyone looking for some supernatural flavor provided by some great Bronze Age comic talent.  It's not a particularly "valuable" comic to collectors, so copies can probably be found for decent prices (I think I paid ten bucks for mine, if I remember) if you keep your eye out for it.
 
Up Next. . .
 
The Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party keeps going!
 
Let's stay in the Bronze Age and head over to DC for a look at  1974's House of Secrets #123.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where the comic reviews keep comin' even if nobody asks for them!

 
It's that time of year again, folks!  That's right. . .it's October! Just SMELL that pumpkin spice wafting from every store.  I was in Home Depot the other day and even saw some pumpkin spice-scented fire logs.  Now THAT'S commitment to the cause when HOME DEPOT jumps on the pumpkin spice train!
 
BUT. . .
 
Here at Longbox Junk, the only delicious scent to be found is the decidedly un-pumpkin spice smell of old comic paper as I pull out some of the older and/or more "valuable" issues in my collection with a slant toward the supernatural as part of the first Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party!
 
*Cracks opens plastic bag. . .Takes a deep, deep breath*
 
Now THAT's some vintage stank!  You can SMELL the Golden Age on the comic at hand. . .all 67 years' worth  of being passed from place to place before landing in one of my longboxes!  Mmmmmm!
 
What?  You want me to quit sniffin' the comic and actually READ it?  Well. . .okay, I guess.
 
*Takes one last whiff*
 
Let's do it!


BEWARE #13

TROJAN MAGAZINES (1953)

 
COVER: Harry Harrison (?)
 
THE COVER:
Just LOOK at the terror on that guy's face!  That pistol isn't doing much good, is it?  Nope. . .he's a goner and he KNOWS it!  What a great cover!  I love a cover that tells a story and that's exactly what we have here.  It makes me what to know what that creature is and what the heck is happening.  So let's get inside and see if we can get some answers!
 
THE STORIES:
Once again, the Golden Age doesn't disappoint, giving any kid in 1953 with one lousy dime four full-sized comic stories and a two page text piece under that terrifying cover!  Let's check them each out. . .
 
REBIRTH
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS: Harry Harrison
 
A hen-pecked man named Clarence is married to a beautiful woman who loves him only for his money.  She's having an affair and he looks the other way because he truly loves her.  When a distant relative leaves Clarence a large inheritance and a castle by the sea, his wife and her lover plot to murder him.
 
After being thrown into the sea by his wife's lover, Clarence is rescued by strange beings and transformed into a hideous creature, who returns to the surface to kill his murderer and to drag his wife down to the depths to undergo the same transformation.
 
Is it just me, or does the boyfriend look like Willem Dafoe?
 
So we start this thing off with a good old  "Greedy lover/relative gets what is coming to them" tale with a supernatural twist.  It's not a bad little story.  The art is pretty unremarkable and pedestrian, making the hideous creatures that save Clarence look sort of goofy instead of horrible.  The generic typeset lettering stands out, and not in a good way.  Overall, a decent story brought down a bit by some artistic choices.
 
NEXT!
 
THE HORRIBLE OFFERING
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS: Gerald Altman
 
A famous archeologist returns from Africa with a large wooden statue.  His mind is slowly consumed by the statue's demands for living sacrifices, which start small with birds and begin to escalate.  Finally the archeologist's wife leaves him, fearing for her own safety.  
 
He realizes he's become obsessed with the statue and decides to destroy it to save his marriage. . .but as he pushes the statue toward a cliff to rid himself of it, the statue falls on him, making the archeologist the final sacrifice.
 
 
Okay, not bad.  This one was a pretty good little tale following the well-worn path of "Evil thing kills the person who created/discovered it".  Unfortunately, like the first story, the art brings things down a notch. The art is pretty workmanlike and bland to begin with, but is made worse with some sloppy coloring that really stands out on several pages.  
 
MOVING ALONG!
 
HIS BROTHER'S KEEPER
(Two page text only story)
SCRIPT: (?)
 
A reporter hears the final confession of a convicted murderer just hours before his execution.  In it, the prisoner claims that he and his brother had always been able to communicate telepathically, so when his brother's body was taken over by an evil spirit during a failed ceremony, he rushed to his aid, killing his brother in order to drive the spirit out.
 
 
 
I know that these text features were probably some of the least popular parts of these comics, and most of them were pretty obvious space filler, but I'm also discovering that there's actually some pretty good little bite-sized stories to be found in them.  Truthfully, I found this tale to be the best of the bunch in this comic.  I wouldn't have minded seeing it expanded into a fully-illustrated offering.  Not bad at all.
 
NEXT!
 
WISH FOR THE DEAD
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS: Vince Napoli
 
When a greed nephew promises his dying Aunt that he'd take her place if he could, in order to get her money, her ghost holds him to that promise, haunting him until he accidentally kills himself inside her crypt.
 
 
Yep. . .it's another "Greedy lover/ relative gets what is coming to them" tale with a supernatural twist.  Actually, I liked this story better than the first (the opening story in the issue).  Unfortunately, this one is brought down by the art (and generic typeset lettering) in the exact same way, giving us a pretty good ghost revenge story taken down a notch by some pretty pedestrian art.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
KEEPER OF THE GHOSTS
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS: Henry Kiefer
 
When a poor family moves into an old mansion inherited from a departed Aunt, they discover that the house is haunted by ghosts of pirates who killed a comrade and buried him beneath the floorboards.  The youngest son observes the ghostly figures hiding their treasure behind the bricks of the fireplace.  After checking, the family discovers a hoard of gold and they quickly decide to move out of the haunted house with their new fortune.
 

This story is just kind of. . .there.  It's not bad, but it's also not really memorable in any way.  The art suffers from the same workmanlike style seen in the rest of the comic, telling the story, but not doing it any favors beyond that.  Overall, it seems like there wasn't much effort put into this story.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Unfortunately, this comic didn't really live up to the promise of that great cover.  It's basically a collection of stories that are actually pretty decent, but are brought down by some pretty basic and workmanlike art (as well as some sloppy coloring and bad typeset lettering).  
 
It seems strange that a comic with four different artists can turn out to be so average in the art department.  One would think that at least one art style would stand out, but here every one of the artists straddle that straight middle line of being good enough to tell a story, but not good enough to make it any better.  
 
Overall, this comic is a pretty average read.  Almost completely unremarkable or memorable.  It's not a BAD comic, it's just the sort of thing you read and forget about almost as soon as you're done.  
 
This seems to be a pretty pricey comic in good condition, and I'm not sure that great cover is worth paying TOO much for, but I found mine at a flea market for five bucks, so it's out there if you keep your eyes open.  Because it's so utterly average, I'm a bit hesitant recommending this comic to anyone except specific fans of 1950's horror/ suspense comics.
 
Up Next. . .
 
You guessed it. . .another Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review!
 
Let's jump the paper time machine forward to the Bronze Age for some Marvel Style monster fun with 1974's Monsters Unleashed #10!  It's gonna be Monster-ific!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I write comic book reviews whether you ask me to or not!

It's that time of year again!  That's right, folks. . .it's October!  Leaves turning beautiful colors, the weather turning cool and crisp, and the sweet smell of pumpkin spice hand sanitizer!
 
We've been having a little Longbox Junk Retro Review Halloween party lately, but then I realized SOMETHING was missing!  What kind of Halloween party is it without that debonair creature of the night, Count Dracula?  In my humble opinion, it's not a party at all!
 
Let's go ahead and invite the dastardly Count into the house! 

DRACULA #1

DELL (1962)

 
COVER:  L.B. Cole (?) or Vic Prezio (?)
 
THE COVER:
 
I've said it before and I'll say it again.  In my extremely humble opinion, Dell and Gold Key comics had some of the all-time BEST comic covers!  Don't try to fight me on it, I'll defend that hill until the end! 
 
This is another in a huge list of fantastic painted covers from Dell.  It makes regular appearances on the Halloween version of my "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  What can I say about it?  Just LOOK at it!  THIS is what a Halloween comic cover is all about right here!  
 
THE STORIES:
 
Under that beauty of a cover there's one full comic story taking up most of the issue, along with three one page space fillers.  Let's take a look at them each in turn. . .
 
THE RUSALKI, WATER MAIDENS OF DOOM
(One Page, Black and White)
SCRIPT: Bernhardt J. Hurwood (?)
PENCILS: Robert Jenney (?) or Max Elkan (?)
 
 
Basically a one page piece on a mischievous Russian folklore creature similar to a siren.  Actually pretty interesting and well-illustrated.  It would have been nicer in color, though.  Not a bad appetizer for the main course.
 
On to the main story!
 
THE VAMPIRE'S CURSE
SCRIPT: Bernhardt J. Hurwood
PENCILS: Robert Jenney (?) or Max Elkan (?)
 
Our tale begins on a dark and stormy night as physician and staunch man of science, Sir Basil Shawcross speeds to the home of  Professor Janos Tesla, expert in literature and folklore, and a good friend of Shawcross. . .
 

Upon arrival, the distraught Shawcross demands Professor Tesla tell him everything he knows about the legendary creature known as the Vampire.  Tesla proceeds to inform Shawcross (and the reader) about the history and known powers of Vampires.  Shawcross seems reluctant to accept that such a supernatural creature can exist, despite his friend's belief. . .
 
 
Tesla asks Shawcross exactly why he's come so late and asking such strange questions.  Shawcross hands over a telegram announcing the death of his son, Bruce, in Transylvania, where he had been working as an artist.  
 
He continues with descriptions of his son's letters home, which started off normally until the night he met a mysterious, beautiful woman in a village graveyard, a woman named Irina who immediately captivated the young man over the course of the nights they met. . .

 
Bruce's final letters home spoke of his intent to marry Irina, as well as a strange illness that had come over him with a terrible weakness and vivid horrific nightmares.  Then the letters stopped, except for the telegram with the news of his death.
 
Shawcross is determined to travel to Transylvania to collect his son's body and find out what happened.  He wants Professor Tesla to accompany  him.  Tesla fears that Shawcross will be in grave danger travelling alone, so he reluctantly agrees. . .
 
 
Having some idea of the supernatural creatures they may encounter, Tesla makes preparations over the next couple of days before the two friends travel to Transylvania.  Upon arrival, they find suspicious villagers and discover that the body of Shawcross' son has gone missing!  
 
 
 
They decide to start their investigation at the inn where Bruce died.  Shawcross takes his son's room over the objections of the innkeeper.  That night, Shawcross wakes to find his supposedly dead son standing at the end of his bed!  
 
Bruce demands that his father accompany him at once and alone.  Shawcross reluctantly agrees, but as the pair set off in a carriage in the dead of night, they don't realize that Professor Tesla is following them. . .
 
 
In the carriage, Bruce introduces his father to Irina, informing him that they have been married.  Irina explains that they are travelling to meet her Uncle, Count Dracula, at his castle.  Upon arrival, Shawcross is introduced to Dracula while Tesla observes unseen. . .

 
As Dracula offers wine to Shawcross, Tesla rushes in shouting that they are all vampires and he's fallen into their trap!  Dracula admits that the game is up, and that he wanted to make Shawcross an offer. . .as a doctor, it will be easier to provide the vampires with blood than by hunting.  He offers Shawcross riches in exchange for his services.
 
Shawcross refuses and Dracula attacks, intending on turning the doctor into a vampire and forcing him to do the Count's bidding.  Tesla rushes to his friend's defense, using garlic and wolfsbane to drive the vampires back. . .but he's too late to save Shawcross, who has a heart attack during the fight.

 
As Shawcross lays dying in Tesla's arms, he asks him to save his son.  As the sun rises and Tesla brings Shawcross' body to the village, he decides to honor his friend's final wish and work toward finding a cure for the curse of the vampire. 
 

The End.
 
Okay.  Hmmmmm. . .
 
Not bad. Not bad at all.  A pretty good read.  The ending seems a bit rushed compared to the slow burn build up at the beginning of the story.  It looks like this was originally pointed toward an ongoing story with Professor Tesla vs. Vampires (that was abandoned in favor of the infamous "Superhero Dracula" series that came a few years later), which would explain the sort of dangling nature of the ending.
 
Other than that, I can't find much to fault in this creepy little tale.  It's well written, it has interesting characters, and I want to see what happens next.  Unfortunately, this is all we get of this story.
 
On the art side of things, I was pleasantly surprised to find some decent art in a Dell comic. . .which is a bit of a rare occurrence.  Dell may have had some of the best painted covers that have ever graced a comic rack, but the art inside is pretty consistently disappointing.  Is it the best comic art I've ever seen?  Not even close.  But compared to a lot of Dell's art, this stands as an exception to the standard "Great Cover. . .Lousy Interiors" I automatically assume whenever I see one of those great painted covers.
 
Overall, a nicely done story.  A good amount of meat on the bone to be found here.
 
Let's check out the final bits. . .  
 
THE HUNTERS OF THE FOREST
(One Page, Black and White)
SCRIPT: Bernhardt J. Hurwood (?)
PENCILS: Robert Jenney (?) or Max Elkan (?)
 
 
A one page article about the strange Slavic forest spirit called the Leshy.  Another pretty interesting read with some decent illustrations.  Like the first of these, it would have been better in color.  Other than that, not a bad little space filler.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
WITCHES' SABBATH
(One Page)
SCRIPT: Bernhardt J. Hurwood (?)
PENCILS: Robert Jenney (?) or Max Elkan (?)
 
 

Another one page space filler. . .this time concerning the Witches' Sabbath, and in color, unlike the other two one pagers in the issue.  This one has a lot more text, but I found it the most interesting of the three.  Not a bad finish.  Not quite a cherry on top, but not bad.
 

CONCLUSION

 
One of the best parts of these "Retro Reviews" for me is taking the opportunity to learn a little bit while I'm in the process of writing a review.  I look up the artists and writers, read up on them and what else they've done.  I check out whatever I can find on the comic itself to see if there's anything interesting or possibly controversial about it.  
 
During the course of writing this review, I DID discover something worth remarking on. . .but not about the comic itself, more about the modern information to be found on it. 
 
 It seems that about half of the sources of information on this comic (Including the specific Wikipedia page on Dell's Dracula comics) cite this issue as being an adaptation of the 1931 movie.  As you can see from the synopsis above, it is not.  I'm not sure if different sites simply copy and paste information without checking (that seems the case), but here at Longbox Junk we actually READ the comic at hand.  This is an original story, NOT an adaptation of the movie.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
As for the comic itself, I found it to be well written and entertaining.  It's too bad this storyline was abandoned by Dell as they tried to move their line more toward superheroes, including their ill-advised attempts to turn Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man into costumed heroes.
 
I'd certainly recommend this one to anybody wanting a decent Silver Age vampire story under a fantastic painted cover.  It might be a bit pricy to find a copy in decent condition, and it doesn't look like it's been collected or reprinted, but keep your eye out!
 
Up Next. . .
 
The Longbox Junk Halloween party keeps going!
 
The paper time machine is heading back to the Golden Age again for a look at 1953's Beware #13.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though you never asked me to!

 
It's that time of year again!  That's right, 'tis the season to go to Wal-Mart and buy Halloween candy while listening to Christmas music on the overhead speakers as you shop! FA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!
 
Here at Longbox Junk, we're not mixing the seasons up. . .it's all Halloween all October just like it SHOULD be.  But just to throw a little extra pumpkin spice in the mix, I've decided to shine the spotlight on some of the older comics featuring spooky stuff in my collection for a month full of Longbox Junk Halloween RETRO Reviews!
 
Enough introduction!  Let's crank up the paper time machine for a fairly short jump back to the waning years of the Bronze Age for some 80's style supernatural fun.  Ready? Let's do it!

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #285

DC (1980)


COVER: Joe Kubert
 
THE COVER:
 
The legendary Joe Kubert throws down a nightmarish vision in ink that punches you right in the face! This may not be on any "Top Ten" lists that I've ever seen, but in MY book it's one of my favorite Halloween comic covers.  Finding this kind of thing is why I love digging deep into those back issue bins.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORIES:
 
A pretty good handful of spooky tales to be found here.  Four full stories.  
Let's give them each a turn, shall we?  We shall!
 
COLD STORAGE
SCRIPT: Paul Kupperberg
PENCILS: E.R. Cruz
 
A soldier from Mississippi stationed at a two man radar station in the Arctic slowly goes insane from the isolation and extreme cold.  One day he snaps, killing his commanding officer and hijacking a supply plane. . .willing to do anything to be warm again.  
 
During a fight in the plane, the pilot is killed and the plane crashes in the Arctic wilderness.  The soldier wanders until he finds a cabin, but the man inside warns him to go away before it's too late.  The soldier ignores him and lights a fire.  To his horror, the strange man begins to melt!
 
On the radio, the terrified soldier hears his base warning him that the stranger is an astronaut who has contracted a highly-contagious alien disease that forces the infected to stay at sub-zero temperature.  He'll never be warm again.
 
Ah, yes. . .It's the good old tried and true "forced to endure that which you hate/fear the most" story twist.  But even though the story follows a well-worn path, it's written well enough to keep me reading, and it's backed up by some really good art that elevates the whole thing several notches.  Overall, not a bad start at all.  Actually, it's a very good start. 
 
Let's see what's next!
 
MAN WITHOUT FEAR
SCRIPT: Mike W. Barr
PENCILS: Ernie Patricio
 
After a vampire hunter with a reputation for knowing no fear accidentally kills a Gypsy woman's son, he is cursed by her with a fear of sharp objects, rendering him helpless when he encounters the actual vampire he was hunting.
 
 
Ah, yes. . .it's the good old tried and true "Unfortunate Gypsy Curse" story twist.  Making this the second story to follow an extremely well-worn path.  Unfortunately, it doesn't manage to pull it off quite as well as the first.  The ending here is a bit of an eye-roller.  The art here is pretty good, but some sloppy inking makes it a bit muddled, taking things down a notch.  Overall, this one isn't BAD, it just could have been better.  
 
NEXT!
 
KILL, CLOWN, KILL!
SCRIPT: Carl Wessler
PENCILS: Tenny Henson
 
A small town sheriff is called to a travelling circus after the owner is brutally murdered.  Evidence points to one of the clowns, but he feels that there's more to the case than meets the eye. 
 
He quickly discovers a sordid underbelly to the circus and reveals the suspect clown as being the owner's wife who disappeared five years before.  But before the arrest can be made, all the performers confess to the murder.
 
The coroner informs the sheriff that there was so much damage to the victim's body that it's impossible to tell exactly WHO killed him.  The sheriff has no choice but to leave the case unsolved.
 
This one lives up to the title of the comic in that it presents a mystery story without any supernatural or fantastic elements at all.  It's interesting and well-written. . .not a bad little story.  Not a great fit for a Halloween entry, though.  Still, it's pretty good for what it is and it's backed up with some very nice art. . .slightly cartoony, but detailed.  Overall, I'd say that this is probably the best story here.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
SOUND AND FURY
SCRIPT: Mike W. Barr
PENCILS: John Garcia
 
After a shopkeeper complains about a hood lingering outside his store and playing loud music, the young man robs the shop and shoots the shopkeeper's wife when she recognizes him.
 
As the shopkeeper's wife recovers, she struggles to regain her memory about the robbery until she hears loud music outside their apartment and remembers who shot her.  As the shopkeeper pursues the hood, the young man is trapped in a collapsing basement.
 
Ignoring the robber's pleas for mercy, the shopkeeper turns up his music to full volume, leaving the hood to die without anyone to hear his yells over the loud music.
 
Ah, yes. . .it's the good old tried but true "You reap what you sow" story twist.  Making this the third out of four stories in this comic to follow a very well worn story path.  I guess it's the law of diminishing returns at work here, but this last story is the worst in the book.  I guess Mike W. Barr was having an off week or something because normally he gives better than either of his offerings in here.  
 
To make matters worse, the artwork on this one is pretty basic, to say the least.  It tells the story, but doesn't make any effort to do anything it absolutely doesn't need to do.  Well, once again I guess I have to say they all can't be winners, and leave it at that.
 

CONCLUSION

Not bad!  Despite the last story being a bit of a clunker, there's some pretty good meat on this comic bone.  Almost all the stories follow extremely well worn paths, but overall I really enjoyed reading this comic.  It's not the best comic I've ever read, but it's surprisingly entertaining at the end of the day.
 
I'm pretty sure this comic isn't on any sort of collector's radar, and I'm also pretty certain that this is the only review that anybody has ever bothered to write about it, and probably will remain the only one in existence.  Even so, if you're looking for a decent little set of Twilight Zone "twist" style stories under a fantastic Joe Kubert cover, keep your eye out for this one in the bargain bin.
 
Up Next. . .
 
What's a Halloween party without Count Dracula? 
In MY humble opinion, It ain't a party at all!
 
Jump into the Longbox Junk paper time machine with me as I head back to the Silver Age for a look at Dell's 1962 Dracula one-shot.  We MIGHT even answer the question of whatever happened to the Transylvanian Twist!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

 
It's that time of year again! Crisp fall weather, the smell of wood burning in the fireplace, pumpkin spice-flavored everything, and the possibility of seeing your otherwise very professional Sales Manager getting sloppy drunk in a sexy witch outfit at the company Halloween party!
 
At the Longbox Junk Halloween party, there's no drunken witches, but there ARE a bunch of fun retro reviews!  For the month of October, I'm shining the spotlight on some of the older spooky and/or supernatural comics lurking in my collection.
 
I've got the paper time machine warmed up and ready to take us back to 1971 for a look at DC's The Witching Hour #13.  Buckle up!  *pulls giant switch*
 
WOOOOOOOOO-EEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOO! Bronze Age, here we come!

THE WITCHING HOUR #13

DC (1971)

 
 
COVER: Neal Adams
 
THE COVER:
Now THAT'S a great Halloween cover right there!  The legendary Neal Adams throws down a superbly-rendered moment of terror captured in ink with a healthy dose of creep factor. . .especially for anyone scared of spiders.  This is the kind of cover that grabs you by the collar and yells "BUY ME!" in your face.
 
THE STORIES:
There's a healthy handful of supernatural fun to be had here.  Three full stories, a short text piece and a continuing framing sequence through the issue.  Let's take a look at each of them in turn.
 
NEW YEAR'S EVE 
(Framing Sequence)
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Neal Adams
 
This one page framing sequence is the first of four through the comic (one before each story) that has Cain and Abel (The narrators of House of Mystery and House of Secrets) visiting the witches Mildred, Mordred, and Cynthia (Narrators of Witching Hour) for a New Year's Eve party where they exchange spooky stories.
 

It's a pretty good framework to build the issue around and features some fantastic artwork from Neal Adams.  Other than that, there's not much to see here.  Moving along!
 
THE MAZE
SCRIPT: Alan Gold & Marv Wolfman
PENCILS: Gray Morrow
 
A man slowly goes insane as he wanders through a mysterious maze filled with strange voices and sounds.  At the end we see that he is part of an experiment being done by gigantic aliens that have taken him captive.
 

This little tale was a great start to this issue!  The writing really captures the victim's despair and growing insanity as he wanders the alien maze, and it's backed up with some fantastic psychedelic artwork!  
 
I also really enjoyed the dual narrative (you can see what I mean in the scan above) where we see what's going through the victim's head, but at the bottom of the page is text telling the story from another point of view.  It's an interesting story device I haven't seen in comics before.  
 
There's not much to the story, but the artistic presentation and creepy mood make this one a winner!
 
NEXT!
 
THE ACCURSED CLAY!
SCRIPT: Jack Miller
PENCILS: Jack Sparling
 
When a failed artist is given some clay by a mysterious stranger, he is able to create incredible pieces of art far beyond his talent.  Unfortunately, each of his statues bears the face of a person killed by strange means each time he completes his work.  
 
When the artist refuses to create any more statues, the mysterious stranger returns and forces him to finish one final work of art. . .with the stranger's own face.  When the stranger dies, it is revealed to the reader that he is a wizard who has been freed from an ancient curse.
 

Not a bad little story.  Not quite as good as the psychedelic ride of the first tale in this comic, but a decent follow up.  The story itself isn't really anything special, but it is well-written and interesting enough to hold the attention.  Once again, the art is what elevates things here.  This one features a dark, detailed, but slightly-exaggerated style that really captures the eye on each panel.  
 
So another winner. . .that's two for two!  Let's see if the streak can keep going.  NEXT!
 
THE RUSH-HOUR RIDE OF ABNER PRINGLE!
SCRIPT: Len Wein
PENCILS: Jose Delbo
 
A patriot during the Revolutionary War named Abner Pringle rides out with Paul Revere and company to warn of approaching British forces, but his journey is cut short when he falls and hits his head.  
 
Waking up 195 years later, Pringle rides into modern Concord to finish his mission, but is astounded by the modern traffic and technology.  Narrowly escaping capture by the police, Pringle falls and hits his head again as the British army marches on Concord.
 

Well. . .I guess two outta three ain't bad.  This story is just okay and not any better than that.  It feels sort of like a rejected Twilight Zone script, has a pretty bad ending, and is backed up by some workmanlike art that serves to tell the story but doesn't do anything it absolutely doesn't have to.  
 
This story isn't BAD, but compared to the two previous offerings, it's just sort of. . .there.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE WITCHING HOUR MISTREE
(One page text story with illustrations)
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Sal Amendola (?)
 
A noble prince fights his way through an enchanted swamp to rescue an imprisoned princess.  It's revealed at the end of things that the princess is actually a vampire and the prince is actually a werewolf.
 

This story is supposedly written by Egor, the narrator witches' monster servant, so it's a little hard to get through because of all the intentional misspelling and childlike grammar.  Given that, it's not a bad little tale, for a back of the book space filler.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, not a bad little piece of supernatural fun!  Although the final tale is underwhelming and the text space filler story is sort of take it or leave it, the first two offerings here are pretty good stories backed up with some great artwork.
 
I can certainly recommend this one for anybody wanting some nicely-done Twilight Zone style stories resting under a fantastic Neal Adams cover.  It's a nice little nugget of Longbox Junk gold to keep your eye out for.
 
Up Next. . .
 
My comic lovin' daughter HATES crazy Halloween clowns. . .so how about a comic with one of my favorite crazy Halloween clown covers?  It's a Longbox Junk entry that SHE'S probably not going to want to read, but I invite the rest of you to join me for a look at 1980's House of Mystery #285!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews you never asked me to write!

Ah. . .Halloween. It's that special time of the year when some people need to be reminded that just because there's a sexy kitty costume for sale, that doesn't mean a sexy kitty costume will look good on YOU. Just sayin', ladies. You know who you are.

BUT. . .

Here at Longbox Junk, we're having Halloween fun without a single kitty costume in sight! I've decided to keep the Retro Review ball rolling along for a while longer by taking a look at some of the older horror/ supernatural comics in my collection through the month of October.

This time out, I'm shining the spotlight on a Golden Age goodie from 1953, before that pesky Comic Code ruined all the fun horror comics were having. I think the paper time machine is ready. *Puts on ridiculous steampunk goggles* Sit down and strap in!

*Pulls giant switch* OOOOOOOOO-WEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOO!

1953, here we come!

CHAMBER OF CHILLS MAGAZINE #17

HARVEY (1953)

 
 
COVER: Lee Elias
 
THE COVER:
 
This is another comic book I might have paid a bit too much for just because of the cover.  But when it comes to horror comic covers, you can't get much better than this! A man alone in a graveyard on a stormy night, screaming in wide-eyed terror. . .what's he screaming about?  Who knows! You gotta read the comic to find out, right?  This is one FINE example of a comic rack eye-catcher!  Let's get inside and see what all the screaming is about, shall we?  
 
THE STORIES:
 
Once again, never let it be said that Golden Age comics didn't deliver their money's worth.  Under that outstanding cover are FOUR full comic stories, TWO text stories, PLUS a tutorial on how do do some magic tricks. . .all for one lousy dime!  Let's take a look at each in turn. . .
 
AMNESIA!
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Warren Kremer
 
A man struck by lightning in a cemetery wakes up in the hospital with amnesia.  As he follows the few clues he can find to recover his identity, the man finds himself pursued by horrific creatures until he finally realizes that he's actually their leader. . .SATAN!
 
 
I'm half and half on this one.  The mood and writing are great here. . .until the end.  The ending is pretty ridiculous and out of nowhere.  Getting there is a lot of creepy fun, though.  This story also has some really great art!  Dark, detailed, and exaggerated just the right amount. Every page is a treat.  There ARE some color issues to be found, but that's pretty much par for the course on Golden Age comics to have some sloppy and/or garish colors, though.  A decent start. . .let's get to the next one!
 
COLD TYPE (1 page text only story)
SCRIPT: ?
 
A man who takes everything in his favorite newspaper as gospel reads his own obituary and decides to kill himself in order to keep the news accurate.
 
 
Okay. . .not a bad little story.  It's well-written for an obvious space-filler on top of the quarter page of indicia.  It's nice they included it instead of just throwing some ads on what would otherwise be wasted space.  Moving along!
 
CHILLER DILLERS!
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: ?
 
A one page mini-tutorial on how to do three magic tricks.
 
 
This was a nice little addition!  I actually was able to pull off the coin and handkerchief trick for my comic-lovin' daughter after about an hour of practice.  The other two tricks are a little more 50's oriented. . .I didn't have cigarette paper or sugar cubes handy.  Overall, an enjoyable little feature.
 
NEXT!
 
BIG FIGHT!
SCRIPT: Howard Nostrand
PENCILS: Howard Nostrand
 
A boxer enters into a mysterious fight where the opponent is unknown and death is the referee.  When he loses, he is reborn as his boxing manager's baby.
 

The art and writing on this story combine perfectly for a strange, dark and dreamlike feeling.  Unfortunately the story itself doesn't make any sense at all.  It's a great vehicle for something  that FEELS like it has deeper layers of meaning, but ultimately the atmosphere is wasted when you come to the end of the story and ask yourself what the heck you just read.  
 
NEXT!
 
BRIDGE!
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Moe Marcus
 
After a successful bank robbery, one of the criminals is killed by the other three in order to reduce the split on the money.  Each year afterwards, the ghost of the murdered man kills one of the others in a way having to do with London Bridge, where he died.
 
 
What we have here is a pretty straightforward ghostly revenge tale.  It's not bad for what it is, but it's also not great.  It rides right down the center lane of being pretty average.  The art here is also just sort of. . .there. It tells the story, but doesn't even try to reach any higher than it needs to.  There's also a lot of color issues here.  More than any other story in this comic.  The sloppy and garish colors are distracting and take everything down a notch.  Well, I guess they ALL can't be winners.  
 
NEXT!
 
JEALOUSY (1 page text only story)
SCRIPT:? 
 
A spurned lover stalks and kills his rival.  In the end, it's revealed all the characters are dogs.
 

I'm not exactly sure why this comic required TWO quarter pages of indicia, but here we are.  Unfortunately, this space filler isn't quite as good as the first.  There's some nice internal monologue going on, but the ending "twist" just feels sort of unnecessary.  Once again, it's nice that the publisher actually put something here besides ads, but the story itself is pretty forgettable.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
THE COLLECTOR
SCRIPT: ?
PENCILS: Joe Certa
 
A jaded hunter realizes that he has no more trophies to collect.  But then he discovers a strange pond that transforms whatever goes in the water into a twisted version of itself.  He enjoys hunting the unique specimens he creates until he falls into the pond himself and finds himself hunted by an evil version of himself.
 

A pretty straightforward story about a man discovering something great, then going too far and paying the price.  It's not a bad story, but it's pretty forgettable.  The art here is also pretty basic.  Like the story, it's not bad, it does the job it's supposed to do, but doesn't try any harder than that.  More sloppy and garish colors take the art down a bit as well.  I guess that's just a Golden Age thing. 
 

CONCLUSION

 
Chamber of Chills Magazine #17 is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I found it to be a pretty enjoyable comic.  None of the stories were particularly great or memorable, but there was some really great artwork in a couple of them that elevated things quite a bit.  I think the main problem with the stories is that they start pretty strong, but end weak.  Even given that, there's nothing really BAD here.
 
 I'd certainly recommend this comic to any collector wanting a decent Golden Age horror (Okay, more like "supernatural suspense") comic in their collection.  If nothing else, it has a cover that's hard to beat AND you can learn a magic trick! 
 
Up Next. . .
 
The Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party keeps going!
Let's head back to the Bronze Age for a look at DC's The Witching Hour #13 from 1971.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews that nobody ever asked for!

There's a crisp coolness in the air. The leaves are beginning to fall. It's October! It's time for some annual Longbox Junk Halloween Fun! That's where I dig through my collection and unearth all manner of spooky or scary comics and post as many as I can over the next 31 days!

For those of you who were enjoying my series of Longbox Junk Retro Reviews, I sincerely apologize and. . .HAH! Just kidding! We're going to start the Halloween Fun off with another Retro Review!

I noticed as I was digging through my many longboxes seeking out older comics to feature in my recent run of Retro Reviews that I actually have quite a good handful of older "horror" anthology titles including Witching Hour, Haunted, Chamber of Darkness, House of Mystery, Monsters Unleashed, and MORE! More than enough of them to carry this whole month!

SO. . .

 
I'm gonna keep the Retro Review fun going right on through Halloween.
Welcome to the first Longbox Junk Halloween RETRO Horror month!

Let's get things started by cranking up the Longbox Junk paper time machine and setting the dial for 1971 so we can take a look at Haunted #1, featuring legendary comic artist Steve Ditko!

Ready? Atomic batteries fully charged! *throws giant switch*
WOOOOOOOOOOO-EEEEEEEE-OOOO!

Longbox Junk Retro Halloween Fun. . .Let's do it!

HAUNTED #1

CHARLTON (1971)

 
COVER: STEVE DITKO
 
THE COVER:
I absolutely LOVE this cover! It makes regular appearances on my Halloween version of the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  I love the stark white background.  I love the brilliant colors.  I love the way Ditko uses the ghostly eyes and mouth as floating picture frames previewing the stories inside. There's nothing I don't like about this cover!  
 
THE STORIES:
SCRIPTS: Joe Gill
PENCILS: Steve Ditko
INKS: Steve Ditko
 
There's three full comic stories and a short text piece in this issue, all by the same team. Let's take a look at the stories each in turn, shall we?  We shall!
 
THE ROOM OF MADNESS
 
A powerful businessman purchases a cursed Persian carpet and quickly descends into madness before becoming the rug's final victim. . .
 

 
A pretty straightforward story following a steady track from showing the rug being cursed in centuries past through a few owners (including Hitler) to its final owner and victim. This story really didn't grab me at all.  It's not BAD, there's just no real thrills or chills to be found.  The little ghostly narrator appearing in almost every panel is sort of annoying.  Ditko's art seems to be lacking something as well.  Some panels seem sketchy and sort of unfinished.
 
Not a great start.  Let's move on to the next tale. . .
 
REVENGE OF THE SLAVE GHOST!
 
An evil man discovers the means to bring spirits to the earthly plane through science.  After he successfully manages to enslave the spirit of a good man to do his evil deeds, he goes too far and finds himself enslaved in turn by malevolent ghosts.
 

 
 
Another story that's just sort of interesting, but not really memorable.  Like the first story, it's extremely straightforward and lacks any sort of thrills or chills that might be expected in a horror/supernatural comic.  The ending doesn't really make much sense either.  It just sort of comes out of nowhere, like the writer just decided it was time to wrap up the story any way he could.  Ditko's art here is an improvement over the first story, but still seems to be lacking a certain something.
 
Moving along. . .
 
IT'S ABOUT TYME
 
A scientific genius with powerful psychic abilities named Mister Tyme invents a machine that can predict the stock market.  A rival steals the machine's data, but kills Tyme's assistant in the process.  Tyme is framed for the murder, but uses his psychic powers to show the police what really happened.
 

This story was pretty bad.  It doesn't make much sense at all, and seems like the writer just took a bunch of concepts and threw them against the wall to see if any would stick.  It looks like Mister Tyme is supposed to be being built into a recurring character, but I don't have any other issues of Haunted to see if that's what happened.  In any case, this story is weak and all over the place.  Likewise, Ditko's art is all over the place, swerving in quality from panel to panel on each page of the story. 
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
TRANSMUTATION TROUBLE (One Page Text-Only Story)
 
A famous hunter defies popular opinion by his belief in witchcraft.  He discovers a herd of shape-shifting deer and wounds one, discovering the next day that it is the daughter of a friend.
 
 
This is one of most poorly-written text stories I've ever found in a comic.  Look. . .I realize that these text pieces are basically page fillers and probably the feature that is paid the least amount of attention to.  I'm pretty sure that most of the time they're never even read.  But still. . .a LITTLE bit of effort could be expected.  This reads like something a twelve year old kid would handwrite in a spiral notebook as the first chapter of a never-finished story that he lost interest in as soon as he got his bike fixed.  Not a great way to end the comic.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I bought this comic for the awesome cover. . .and truthfully, that cover is the best thing to be found here.  Overall, this whole comic was pretty disappointing.  None of the stories were memorable in any way, and struggled to reach a high bar of "Sorta interesting".  
 
For a lot of comic fans, the main draw here isn't the writing, though. . .it's going to be Steve Ditko's art.  Unfortunately (with the exception of the cover) this is not the best example of Ditko's art talents.  
 
There are those who think that Ditko can do no wrong, and I'm not here to try and knock a comic legend off his well-deserved pedestal, but a simple look at the few pages I scanned above will tell the story. . .the art here is average at best,  and fairly poor in places.  EVERY comic talent, no matter how great, has phoned it in from time to time.  This comic looks like one of those times for Ditko.
 
All in all, unless you're a big Steve Ditko fan, I can't recommend this comic.  It's kind of a shame because that awesome cover builds a sense of expectation, but this is just one of those times when I have to say that they all can't be winners.
 
Up Next. . .
 
More Longbox Junk Retro Halloween Fun!
 
We didn't get off to a great start with Haunted #1, so I'm sending the paper time machine all the way back to the Golden Age and before that pesky Comic Code thing. 1953's Chamber of Chills #17!
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

 
Lately I've been going outside my usual Longbox Junk bargain bin finds to shine the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics sitting unread in my collection.  It's been a lot of fun for me, and I've been able to learn a little here and there in the process.  Case in point: the comic at hand.
 
I know next to nothing about She-Hulk beyond the obvious. . .she's a female version of The Hulk.  I've never read any of her ongoing series, and have only come across her occasionally in other comics she pops up in.  In other words, I know She-Hulk as more of a guest star than as a main character.
 
I bought this comic at a flea market for ten bucks because (despite my lack of knowledge about the character) I knew just from hanging around comic sites that I had a good find on my hands that was definitely "worth" more than a ten-spot.  That and it has a pretty sweet cover.  But I didn't have much interest in actually READING the comic, so it got bagged, boarded, and forgotten.
 
UNTIL NOW!
 
When I was digging through my collection for some "Before 1986, please" (nods to the fine people over at Old Guys Who Like Old Comics) comics to review for this batch of Longbox Junk retro reviews, this was a natural choice for me. . . A popular character that I had little actual knowledge of with a bangin' Bronze Age cover.  
 
So I did a bit of research before writing this and found that there's an interesting story BEHIND the story to be found.  Maybe more interesting than the actual comic itself (to ME, anyway).  Bear with me just a minute.  YOU might already know the story behind She-Hulk, but maybe others reading this might not. 
 
SO. . .
 
Just to sketch it out a little, what we have here is a character that was created for a very specific purpose.  It seems that the Powers That Be running Marvel in the late 70's were looking closely at the runaway success of the Incredible Hulk T.V. show.  But what they were ALSO looking at was the successful spinoff of another show. . .The Bionic Woman, which came out of the wildly popular Six Million Dollar Man series.
 
The Marvel Executives came to the conclusion that if one show could just spin off a female version of a character, another show could do the same.  And so they tasked Stan Lee with coming up with a female version of The Hulk so that if  CBS DID decide to throw out a female Hulk, Marvel would own the rights.
 
This would be Stan Lee's last major character created for Marvel, and because of the urgency of the job, the issue was written in an extremely short period of time (sources vary, but agree it was just a few weeks). 
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Enough of that.  Let's get into this comic!

THE SAVAGE SHE-HULK #1

MARVEL (1980)

 

 
THE SHE-HULK LIVES
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Chic Stone
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE COVER:
It's just a great Bronze Age comic rack eye catcher!  I'm a sucker for monochromatic backgrounds like this one, and I like the way it's split between the stark white and the cityscape below.  I really like the contrasting colors between the title and She-Hulk as well.  They both pop very nicely against the plain white background.  The thing I like best about this cover is the figure of non-hulked Jen Walters.  John Buscema drew some of the best female figures out there, and he doesn't disappoint here.  It's kind of funny that he drew her wearing purple pants.  All around, a great cover!  Let's get inside and see what's going on. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
Our tale begins as Doctor David/Bruce Banner begins to feel the isolation and loneliness of being a wanted man and decides to visit his cousin Jen, a Los Angeles lawyer who Banner hasn't seen since she was young. . .
 

After a joyful reunion between the two, Banner tells her the real reason he's come to her. . .to confess he's the Hulk and to tell his side of the story.  This leads into an abbreviated recap of The Incredible Hulk's origin. . .
 

Jen sympathizes with her cousin and is determined to help him if she can.  On the way to her house, she confides that she's working on a case defending a hoodlum being framed for murder.  She know his boss committed the murder and has planted a rumor that she has evidence of his crime.  Banner is concerned for her safety, playing such a dangerous game, but Jen isn't worried.
 
But maybe she should have been.  As they arrive at her house, gunmen attack Jen, shooting her down in her driveway!  Banner fights off the gunmen as they close in to finish the job.
 

 
Banner desperately seeks help for his badly-wounded cousin. . .trying to keep his emotions in check so he doesn't turn into the Hulk.  He eventually finds a doctor office, but nobody is there.  He decides extreme danger calls for extreme measures, so he breaks into the office and gives her a transfusion of his own blood. . .
 

After the worst danger has passed and Jen is stable, Banner calls the police so that she can be taken to the hospital.  Unfortunately, the police are suspicious of Banner and take him in for questioning.  He turns into the Hulk and makes his escape. . .once again becoming a fugitive.
 
 
In the meantime, as Jen recovers in the hospital, the mobsters who put her there return disguised as doctors to finish the job by poisoning her!  Jen tries to fight, but they are too strong.  She feels rage begin to build inside!
 

A strange transformation comes over Jen!  She turns into a giant, green-skinned monstrosity! To the horror of her attackers, Jen Walters has become some sort of. . .SHE-HULK!
 
 
The newly-born She-Hulk fights off her attackers, who flee in panic.  She-Hulk pursues them through the hospital, wreaking havoc with her new strength! 
 
 
The chase ends in the parking lot as She-Hulk wrecks the mobster's getaway car.  As the police arrive on the scene, She-Hulk forces a confession out of the gunmen that they were behind the attack on Jen.  Seeing that the police have witnessed the confession, She-Hulk flees the scene!
 
 
As She-Hulk feels her anger and strength fade, she makes her way back into the hospital before changing back into Jennifer Walters.  She realizes that her cousin's blood transfusion was behind the change. . .but instead of seeing it as a bad thing, Jen decides to embrace her new abilities as She-Hulk and put them to good use!
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
All righty then. . .there it is.  The origin of She-Hulk.  Let's break it on down!
 
When I was doing my little series of "First Issue Fun" Longbox Junk entries just a little while ago, I laid down the TWO basic requirements that make me consider a first issue a success. First, it has to introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way.  Second, it has to make me want to read more.
 
This comic does a great job in introducing She-Hulk to new readers.  Stan Lee delivers a quick and concise origin story that makes sense in the context of fitting in with the existing Incredible Hulk stories.  It's a well-written, fast-paced, and extremely simple story that's over with before you know it. . .but it gets the job done it's supposed to do very well.  Stan Lee was tasked with quickly creating and introducing a female version of the Hulk and that's exactly what you get here.  Nothing more, nothing less.
 
But does it make me want to read more?  Well. . .not really.  
 
This is a pretty good little "One and done" origin story written for a specific purpose, and it succeeds at that purpose.  But it's just missing something.  I'm not sure exactly what, but there's just not enough here to hook me into the next issue.  I guess I can't help but think that any story with She-Hulk could probably be done just as well with the original Hulk.  Maybe it's because I'm looking back from 40 years down the road and know the blatantly commercial origin of this character. 
 
In itself, this isn't a bad story at all. . .it just doesn't really have much reason to exist beyond its reason to exist.  Does that even make sense? Maybe I would have a different opinion if I hadn't done any research into the character before reading this. 
 
On the art side of things, I have to admit I was a little disappointed.
 
I'm a fan of John Buscema.  As far as I'm concerned (and I think maybe a lot of others as well), he's a  superstar who very much deserves the pedestal he stands on in the hall of comic book history.  I can confidently describe his work on Conan as "definitive", and not worry about much disagreement on the point. 
 
BUT. . .
 
His outstanding cover aside, Buscema's work here looks as obviously rushed as it was.  As I mentioned above, this comic was done in what was probably record time. . .available sources vary but agree on it being just a few weeks. . .and you can definitely tell.  The art isn't BAD at all, it's just not quite up to what I would expect from John Buscema.  A bit of a shame.  Given a little more time, I'm sure the art would have been a lot better.  As it stands, I'll just say it's not the best example of John Buscema's art, and I'll leave it at that.
 

CONCLUSION

What we have here is a comic book that was written for a specific purpose. . .introduce a female version of the Hulk in order to protect Marvel's rights to the character. . .that was done in a very short period of time.  

Stan Lee does a great job of introducing She-Hulk with a quick reading and well-written origin story, but he falls flat in making her interesting enough to make me want to read more.  John Buscema's art disappoints, looking rushed and pretty rough in spots.  I'm pretty sure a bit more time would have smoothed that out, though.

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic book reviews that nobody ever asked for!

Once again, I'm sorry for a bit of delay between entries this time of year.  I manage a hotel and we're fully in the swing of Utah tourist season right now. . .even though I've been assured by the fine folks on my television screen that it's SO unsafe to venture out of your home and stand in a line that we need to vote by mail this year.  I look at my packed parking lot, raise an eyebrow, and mutter, "Well, if you say so, I guess."

ANYWAY. . .

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

Sorry for a bit of delay.  The challenges of trying to run a hotel on a skeleton crew while having typical summer tourist sellout guest traffic aren't what most people would call "fun".  It's made worse because at the same time people are getting out and about on their normal summertime travels, we're having a hard time hiring new employees because our government has decided that, for some strange reason, it's a GREAT idea to pay people more to sit home on unemployment than to come back to work full time.  

BUT ENOUGH OF THAT. . .

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