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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

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

 
Lately, I've had a pretty good run of luck while out Longbox Junkin' at the local flea markets.  There's been some unexpectedly sweet finds coming my way, and ain't THAT the truth!  
 
In my last Longbox Junk post, I took a look at a great Golden Age Lone Ranger comic that I bought for a couple of bucks.  So I thought to myself, "Why not show off another one of those Fantastic Flea Market Finds?"
 
And so here we are. . .ready to crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for a trip back to 1969 and a look at another surprise find I made back in early August that cost me a measly TEN BUCKS at the flea market!
 
It's a comic featuring the iconic artwork of the great Neal Adams and the introduction of his Bronze Age makeover for Green Arrow.  When I spotted this comic in the shape it's in (I'd grade it at a 7.5/8.0, but I'm no expert) for the price they wanted, I couldn't believe my good fortune!
 
So strap in, because it's time for another Longbox Junk Retro Review! 
 
Ready?  LET'S DO IT!

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #85

DC (1969)

 
 
 

THE SENATOR'S BEEN SHOT!

 
SCRIPT: Bob Haney
PENCILS: Neal Adams
INKS: Neal Adams
COVER: Neal Adams
 
THE COVER:
 
Now THAT'S a nice cover!  A Bronze Age beauty by the Legendary Neal Adams at the top of his game.  Green Arrow is the star of the show on this one, sporting his new (at the time) look front and center.  I really like how Batman's cape serves to frame the Emerald Archer.  The tilted logos and  bright splashes of color also really catch the eye. There's nothing I don't like about this cover.  It's the sort of thing that grabs my attention and makes me want to buy a comic book!  Let's get inside and see what's going on. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
After witnessing the attempted assassination of newly-elected Senator Paul Cathcart, a staunch supporter of a pending anti-crime bill, Batman fails to capture the gunman.  Later, in the hospital as the Senator lays in critical condition, Bruce Wayne is shocked when the Governor asks him to take over the Senator's term in order to push the anti-crime legislation through!
 
Meanwhile, as Bruce Wayne ponders his decision, we find multi-millionaire Oliver Queen discussing his bid on an important building project meant to keep the state and Gotham City from bankruptcy.  His opponent for the project is Argonaut Incorporated, headed by Miklos Minotaur. . .a man Oliver knows is the head of a powerful criminal organization (thanks to his other identity as the Green Arrow).  
 
As he wonders whether or not he can do Gotham more good as Oliver Queen or as Green Arrow, he is suddenly attacked!  After narrowly escaping the assassination attempt, Oliver realizes that he's been targeted by Minotaur.
 
The next day, Bruce Wayne, still agonizing over the decision to take over the Senator's term and fight crime through legislation, or to continue to fight crime as Batman, he reveals his secret identity to his psychiatrist, Edmond!  Sworn to secrecy, the psychiatrist  isn't really much help, telling Bruce/Batman that this is a decision he's going to have to make by himself.  
 
Later that day, we learn that the psychiatrist that Bruce Wayne revealed his identity to is ALSO Oliver Queen's psychiatrist as we follow Edmond and Oliver while they survey the contested land development project and Oliver Queen reveals his identity as Green Arrow!  Edmond is either the luckiest, or the unluckiest psychiatrist on the face of the earth!
 
That night, Green Arrow and Batman both decide to visit Edmond's office to continue their respective discussions with him.  After they get over their surprise at running into each other in such a seemingly random way, they find that Edmond's office has been broken into and the psychiatrist is missing!  
 
Both heroes realize that Miklos Minotaur is trying to get to their public identities through their mutual psychiatrist. The suspicion is confirmed when they review Edmond's office recording and they hear the kidnapping in progress.  Green Arrow and Batman agree they have to team up and rescue their friend. . .
 
The following morning, realizing the lengths Minotaur will go to, Bruce accepts the task of completing Senator Cathcart's term. . .and so becomes Senator Bruce Wayne!  In the meantime, on a small volcanic island in the Mediterranean, Green Arrow is hot on the trail of Edmond's kidnappers. . .
 
As Green Arrow pursues Minotaur's men, vicious animals are released in the maze of rocky tunnels leading to the crime lord's hidden base.  Green Arrow manages to fight them off, and shortly after is joined by Batman, who followed the signal of Green Arrow's Justice League transmitter to his location.  The two heroes continue on together to rescue their mutual friend. . .

 
In the meantime, Miklos Minotaur reveals to his prisoner that he plans to have agents destroy both Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen for their interference with his schemes.  At that moment, Batman and Green Arrow burst onto the scene!  Minotaur takes Edmond hostage. . .
 

Minotaur believes he has the upper hand, but he didn't count on Green Arrow's superior bow skills, which give the heroes the chance to attack and easily subdue Minotaur's men.  Unfortunately, in the confusion of the fight, Minotaur himself manages to escape!  
 
As Batman rushes back to the United States in order to vote on the anti-crime bill as Senator Wayne, Green Arrow concocts a plan to capture and arrest Miklos Minotaur for his crimes by inviting him to a posh party at the U.S. Embassy in his public identity of Oliver Queen.
 
 
At the party, Oliver Queen informs the smug crime lord that he's to be arrested and taken back to the United States to stand trial.  Minotaur is shocked when he realizes he's fallen into a trap. . .the embassy is legally U.S. territory and he's taken into custody. . .
 

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., Batman arrives just as the voting for the anti-crime bill has begun.  As he rushes toward the Capital, Batman discovers and defeats an assassin waiting for Bruce Wayne.  He manages to arrive just in the nick of time to deliver the deciding vote in favor of the anti-crime bill!
 
 
At the end of the day, Edmond is safely returned to the U.S., where he learns that Oliver Queen has decided to fund the land development project AND continue fighting crime as Green Arrow.  
 
Later, Edmond discovers that Bruce Wayne plans on giving up his Senate seat now that the anti-crime bill has passed.  Wayne prefers to fight crime as Batman.
 
In a final scene, we see that Edmond has decided to undergo self-hypnosis in order to wipe the knowledge of the true identities of Batman and Green Arrow from his mind.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then, there it is.  Let's break it on down!
 
What we have here is a pretty typical example of early Bronze Age DC "One and Done" storytelling.  They weren't quite as tuned in to the continuing storylines as Marvel was at this time, and this story shows it.  This is a tale that needs just a LITTLE more room to breathe.  I think this would have made a fine two-parter.  Anything more than that would probably have been too much, but one issue just seems like it's too little.
 
That's not to say it's a BAD story.  It's not.  Bob Haney does a great job in the space he's given.  The story is well-written and interesting.  It just seems a bit rushed and overly-compressed.  
 
What I liked most about the story was the spotlight on both the public AND heroic personas of the two main characters.  With limited space to tell comic stories during this time period, the secret identities of the heroes often fell to the wayside in favor of the more action-oriented superhero side of things.  In this story, Haney makes great use of Batman and Green Arrow's public identities, and truthfully, the scenes with the heroes out of costume were the more interesting to me.
 
The central conflict of this story was very engaging, with two superheroes grappling with the question of how to better serve the public. . .as themselves, using their money and position to fight crime. . .or as costumed crimefighters able to do what the authorities are unable or unwilling to do.  
 
This kind of superheroic introspection was just becoming popular at DC, and it's a welcome change from the usual supervillain of the month punch-ups that were more characteristic of DC comics at the time.  This story is a great example of the more mature storylines that would begin to come out of DC in the following years to come.
 
So the story is good. . .an early example of the more socially-conscious, or "relevant" comics to come.  I just wish that it had a little more room to move around in.  Let's talk about the art side of things.
 
In my humble opinion, Neal Adams is a living legend and a national treasure.  His fantastic art is always a joy to see in a comic.  His writing?  Not so much.  But THAT'S something for another review!
 
What we have here is Adams at the top of his Bronze Age game.  The pages of this comic are FULL of superb Neal Adams artwork, featuring his trademark realism and interesting "camera" angles.   Like the story, the art is at its best when spotlighting the characters out of costume, but every single page of this issue is worth lingering over for an extra moment before turning to the next.
 

CONCLUSION

 
From the fantastic cover to the final panel, this is comic that delivers in a big way!  It has an interesting story based around heroes conflicted about how best to serve the public and is backed up by some great Neal Adams artwork.  
 
Sure, the story is a little rushed and could have been better served by having an extra issue to tell it in, but I don't blame that on Bob Haney. . .I blame it on DC thinking that every comic book had to tell a complete story in one and only one issue at that time.  As a modern reader used to comics being a bit more decompressed, it just seems like a missed opportunity to make a good story great.  
 
If you are a Batman fan or Green Arrow fan or a Neal Adams fan in particular, you'll love this comic! But I can certainly recommend it for just about ANY comic fan that wants to see a somewhat unusual story (for the time) that focuses not just on superheroics, but also on the men behind the masks.  
 
Me finding this actual issue in good shape at a flea market for ten bucks was just lucky, but a bit of research shows me that this one has been reprinted many times, and is available on ComiXology, for those who like to read their comics online, so it's not hard to find at all.  Give it a look!
 
Up Next. . .
 
Spotlighting a few of my more "valuable" lucky flea market finds has been fun, but I've been inspired by Ed Gosney at COOL COMICS IN MY COLLECTION to return to my Longbox Junk roots by taking a look at some. . .Longbox Junk!  
 
By taking a short look at 1987's "G.I. RAMBOT" from Wonder Color Comics in his blog, I was reminded that not everyone is going to be able to snag a 1950's Lone Ranger comic, but there's plenty of forgotten and "worthless" comics lurking in the bargain bins that need a little love too!
 
And not for nothin' but if you're looking for a place that keeps comics fun and gives you JUST enough bite-sized pieces of comic goodness to make you want to come back for more. . .check out Cool Comics in the link above or on Facebook.  
 
Okay, plug time is over!  See you next time with some ACTUAL Longbox Junk.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog that's just FULL of comic reviews nobody asked me to write!

 
To me, comic collecting is all about the hunt.  Finding unexpected comic book treasure in a forgotten back issue bin way down on the bottom shelf back in the corner. . .or sitting in a pile of unbagged comics with the pages flapping in the wind on a folding table at the flea market. . .or hiding in the middle of a pile of old Life Magazines in a milk crate at a little antique shop. 
 
Maybe it's just me, but I think the internet has sort of ruined comic collecting a little bit.  The easy access and ability to specifically pick and choose which comics you want to buy have brought a little bit too much focus on "Value" and "Grade" of comics and taken away some of the joy of discovery.
 
CASE IN POINT. . .
 
I'm a huge fan of The Lone Ranger.  Unfortunately, older Lone Ranger comics are a little hard to come by in "The Wild".  Yeah. . .I could just jump on the internet and buy whatever old Lone Ranger comic catches my eye, but where's the fun in that?  
 
So imagine my joy when I discovered not one, not two, but FIVE Golden Age Lone Ranger comics in decent condition sitting in a cardboard box mixed up with a bunch of battered Richie Rich and Archie comics at the local flea market about a month ago for a lousy TWO BUCKS each!
 
Now THAT'S the sort of find that keeps me excited for hunting comics in "The Wild" right there!
 
SO. . .
 
Since I've found these great old Lone Ranger comics, why not take a closer look at one?
 
Let's strap on a set of ridiculous steampunk goggles and crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for a trip back to 1955. . .when westerns were at the top of the pop culture pile and characters like The Lone Ranger cast a long shadow over the imagination of young Americans.  That's right, it's time for a Longbox Junk Retro Review!
 
Ready? Let's do this!

THE LONE RANGER #84

DELL (1955)

 

COVER: Sam Savitt
 
THE COVER:
 
Let's get this much straight. . .the cover of this comic is worth the admission no matter WHAT is inside.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  In my humble opinion, Dell/ Gold Key comics have some of the greatest covers in comic book history.  Unfortunately, the interior art rarely ever even comes close to matching what's on the cover.  This comic is no exception.
 
But that cover, though!  Now THIS is one awesome Golden Age comic rack eye-catcher!  I haven't owned this comic for long, but it's already among my top ten favorite covers in my collection.  Heck, I'd say top five.  
 
Just LOOK at this cover! Feast your eyes on the rich colors! This beautifully-painted piece of western art perfectly captures the motion, the spirit, the energy of The Lone Ranger and Silver.  It's just a wonderful moment of action captured in art!  I could go on, but let's get inside. . .
 
THE STORIES:
 
Never let it be said that a kid didn't get his money's worth from a Golden Age comic!  Under that awesome cover rests three full length comic stories, an illustrated text story, and a couple of one page non-fiction information pieces.  That's a nice amount of western fun for one thin dime!  Let's take a look at each story in turn. . .
 
THE GHOST RIDERS
SCRIPT: Paul S. Newman
PENCILS: Tom Gill
 
When the town of Weston is plagued by a series of robberies carried out by what seem to be glowing ghost men, the entire town is terrified except for the sheriff.  Tales of the ghostly gang reach The Lone Ranger and Tonto, who arrive in town to help the sheriff get to the bottom of the strange happenings.
 
During their investigation, while taking shelter from a rainstorm in a cave outside of town, the Ranger discovers the secret of the glowing robbers. . .a phosphorescent sludge that the criminals are soaking their clothing in to fool the townfolk into thinking they are spirits!
 
The Ranger and Tonto work with the sheriff to set up a trap, and manage to catch the bandits flat footed in the dark, where their glowing clothes make them easy targets.  Their work done, the Ranger and Tonto ride off to their next adventure.
 
The End.
 

Not a bad little story to start things off with.  Not bad at all.  I like that this short tale shows us the Lone Ranger as an investigator, solving a mystery.  It's a simple story, but it still reads well 66 years down the road, so there's something to be said for simplicity.  
 
The art is also surprisingly nice for a Dell comic.  I usually have a pretty low bar when if comes to Dell/Gold Key comic interior art, but the art here is actually very nicely done, with rich dark inks, plenty of detail, and with none of the sloppy coloring issues that often turn up in Golden Age comics.  It doesn't hold a candle to the fantastic painted cover, of course, but the art is quite a bit better than I expected.
 
Overall, a fun little western tale showing off the Lone Ranger as a detective, with unexpectedly good art.  This comic has gotten off to a fine start. Let's see what else is in here. 
 
NEXT!
 
THE IMPOSTER
SCRIPT: Paul S. Newman
PENCILS: Tom Gill
 
After the Lone Ranger and Tonto rescue an unconscious man laying on train tracks from certain death, they discover that he's a recently-discharged soldier who was attacked by another man, who stole his discharge papers and clothing and left him for dead after changing clothes with him.
 
Searching the man's clothing, they find an envelope addressed to a wanted killer named Mac James that the Ranger and Tonto have been tracking.  They realize that James has stolen the soldier's identity in order to try and escape their pursuit.  They head to the nearest town, Trail City, to try and catch the killer.
 
In Trail City, Mac James' disguise quickly falls apart when the Sheriff recognizes him.  James shoots the sheriff and escapes by jumping onto a moving train, but Tonto sees him circling back around to Trail City and heading into a hotel that is a suspected safe house for criminals on the run.
 
Thinking that the soldier is dead, James decides to finish off the sheriff so that he can safely use his new identity.  The Lone Ranger learns of this plan from the crooked innkeeper and rushes to the doctor's to save the sheriff.  The Ranger arrives just in time to shoot the gun from James' hand.  After taking the killer into custody, the sheriff deputizes The Lone Ranger and he leaves to arrest the innkeeper.  And with that, all is well in the town of Trail City.
 
The End.
 
 
There's a little more meat on the bone of this story, compared to the simplicity of the first. . .with this tale of identity theft and murder requiring just a bit more of the reader's attention.  Once again, this story shows the Lone Ranger as more of an investigator than a gunfighter.  As a matter of fact, reading back over the story, the Ranger fires a total of ONE shot (to knock the gun out of the killer's hand) through the entire narrative.  
 
I find it interesting that both of the Lone Ranger stories in this issue focus more on the investigative side of the famous masked vigilante.  And when I say I find it interesting, I mean I like it a lot.  It seems an unusual path to follow in a 1950's western comic, where one would normally expect a lot of rootin' tootin' pistol shootin' action.
 
The art in this story is a little weaker than in the first, even though both are done by the same artist.  I chalk it up to the first story mostly being set at night, allowing a lot of deep inks and silhouettes, where this story is set mostly in broad daylight.  That's not to say the art is bad.  It's still surprisingly good for a 1950's Dell comic.
 
Overall, an interesting story about identity theft and a killer desperately trying to elude the Lone Ranger, showing the Ranger as more of an investigator and less of a gunfighter, backed up by some more unexpectedly good art.  It's a decent little western story that still holds up well, even after 66 years.
 
And that's it for the Lone Ranger in this Lone Ranger comic.  Let's see what else we've got here.
 
NEXT!
 
MAVERICK KING 
SCRIPT: ??
ILLUSTRATIONS: Tom Gill (?)
 
Next up, we have a two page text story with some very nice spot illustrations.
 
It's about a man and his son hunting for a stolen herd of cattle and talking about an old maverick bull that's never been captured.  When they finally find the herd, they are amazed to find that the maverick has already driven off the rustlers by himself.  You can read the whole thing below.
 
 

Usually, unless I'm reviewing a comic, I just skip by the text stories.  But this one was actually pretty interesting in that about half of it is told from the point of view of the maverick bull.  An unusual storytelling choice. The illustrations are also very nicely done.  Overall, I expected filler.  What I got was a pretty good little read.
 
NEXT!
 
YOUNG HAWK - THE GIANT TURTLE
SCRIPT: Du Bois
PENCILS: Rex Maxon
 
Young Hawk and his brothers, Little Buck and Strong Eagle make camp beside a river.  Their rest is interrupted by a bear and a wolverine fighting over the meat the brothers have left hanging. 
 
After driving off the bear and killing the wolverine, the brothers continue their journey down the river. . .noticing the strange lack of young ducks, even though it's the season for them.
 
As their pet dog, Tumbleweed, swims through the river, he is suddenly pulled under water! Young Hawk dives in to save him and is astounded to see a gigantic snapping turtle.  He kills the turtle by cutting off its head, saving Tumbleweed.  The monstrous turtle will no longer trouble the animals or travelers along that part of the river again.
 
The End.
 

 

This story just didn't do it for me.  I have to admit that I'm not a fan of Du Bois' writing in the first place, so I'm a little biased going in.  That said, I can give anything a fair chance, and given a fair chance, this one still falls flat.  
 
To be fair, the simplistic narrative, with its "This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. The End" story path IS well-suited for the younger audience this comic was written for, and is characteristic of Du Bois' style in ANY comic he's written that I've ever read.  But where the simplicity of the opening Lone Ranger story gave it a snappy character, the simplicity here just makes the story feel like it's being written down to the lowest level of reader.
 
The art doesn't help.  After the surprisingly well done art in the first two stories, the art here feels like a big step backward and more into the territory I would expect in the interior of a Dell comic.  Compare the page above with the pages I scanned for the first two stories and you'll see what I'm talking about.  The art here isn't BAD. . .it's just a little disappointing.
 
Overall, this one was the weak point of this comic.  An overly-simple story backed up by some disappointing art just makes it feel like this effort was aimed squarely at a juvenile audience.  To be fair, on that front it succeeds. . .but it doesn't read very well to a modern reader because of it.
 
AND FINALLY. . .
 
To finish things off, we've got a couple of short page space fillers.  
 
The first is about Native American gourd lamps. . .
 

The most interesting thing about this little half-pager is that it was written by an actual Native American tribal Chief. . . Red Thunder Cloud of the Catawba Nation, who was a pretty interesting (and sort of controversial) character, according to his Wikipedia page.  So I liked this one not so much for the gourd lamp information (which was okay), but for the direction it took me reading about Chief Red Thunder Cloud.
 
The second page space filler is a little synopsis of the tragic history of the Black Hills.  It basically reads like an encyclopedia entry (For my younger readers, they were big sets of books we used to look things up before Google existed. . ., I feel old).  Interesting, but ultimately there just to take up some unused space.  The "Dell Pledge" below it was actually more interesting to me.  It basically gives the justification as to why Dell comics never sported the CCA seal.
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
And there you have it, Lone Ranger #84 from 1955.  
 
Overall, I found this to be a quite enjoyable read.  The first two stories showcase the Lone Ranger as more of an investigator than as a gunfighter, and I really liked that a lot.  The third story wasn't to my liking, but taking a step back and trying to put myself in the shoes of a kid in 1955 paying a dime for this comic, it's not really that bad.  Heck, it's got a bear fight, a giant turtle, and Indians! What more could a kid ask for?
 
A lot of Golden Age comics don't age very well.  This one still reads pretty good even 66 years down the line, with the exception of the Young Hawk story. But even that wasn't enough to keep the grin off my face as I transported myself back to 1955, when westerns were at the top of the pop culture pile and The Lone Ranger stood strong and tall as one of the great American heroes.
 
If you are a Lone Ranger fan, you will love this comic!  Heck, the cover alone should be enough to make you love this comic.  But this comic will also appeal to fans of Golden Age western comics in general.  This was a lucky find for me, and it's a little more "valuable" than my usual Longbox Junk fare, so finding a copy in decent shape might be a bit difficult.  That said, keep your eye out!  I found this in "the wild" so there might be more of them out there just waiting to be found.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I'm thinking I'll spotlight another one of my recent great flea market finds.
 
But which one?  Stick around and find out. . .
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

LONGBOX JUNK - The World of Krypton

406 views • 13 weeks ago • (2) Comments

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

 
Sorry about the delays between posts (I actually started writing this one June 12).  Between work really ramping up and my wife being in a car wreck (and in and out of the hospital, doctor appointments and such), I've had to put comic readin' and reviewin' on the back burner for a little bit.  But here I am, back at it!
 
SO. . .
 
If you've been reading Longbox Junk for a while, then you probably already know that I'm not much of a Superman fan.  If you're new to Longbox Junk, Welcome!  I hope you stick around for a while.  And by the way. . .I'm not much of a Superman fan.
 
But what I AM a fan of is a great comic book cover!  So when I spotted these three issues at the flea market recently for two bucks apiece, the cover for #3 immediately caught my eye, and I bought the set.  Seriously. . .scroll down and just LOOK at that cover!  It's a Bronze Age beauty if I ever saw one!
 
So I bought three comics featuring a character I don't even like much because I liked the cover on one of them and didn't want to break up the set.  It's just my sort of random way of collecting comic books.  It's Longbox Junkin' is what it is.
 
BUT. . .
 
When I got the comics home and was looking them up to enter them onto my COMIC BOOK REALM list (where I make a half-hearted effort to keep track of the gigantic pile of random comics I've accumulated over the years), something caught my eye.  Apparently, The World Of Krypton is regarded as the FIRST actual comic book mini-series.
 
I found it a bit strange that a little piece of comic history like this was. . .well. . .Longbox Junk.  In perfect-o condition, these issues are only "worth" about eight bucks each.  And yet I see they hold an acknowledged place in the comic book timeline.  I hadn't really intended ever reading these comics, but NOW my interest in them was raised.
 
Enough introduction! Let's take a look at these Bronze Age relics.  Are they an overlooked and undervalued piece of comic history?  Or do they rightfully belong on a folding table at a Utah flea market, flapping in the wind and sold for less than the price of a Big Mac meal at McDonald's?
 
Let's find out!
 

THE WORLD OF KRYPTON

DC (1979)

 
SCRIPTS: Paul Kupperberg
PENCILS: Howard Chaykin & Alan Kupperberg (Uncredited Layouts)
INKS: Murphy Anderson & Frank Chiaramonte
COVERS: Ross Andru & Giordano (Inks)
 

ISSUE ONE

THE JOR-EL STORY

 
THE COVER:
 
To me, kind of "Meh".  It's nicely-drawn and the background elements of the building and the ship in the sky are interesting, but there's nothing really here that grabs me and makes me want to read this comic.  
 
THE STORY:
 
After Superman discovers a memory tape on the moon that turns out to part of his father's journals, we join the Man of Steel as he learns about Jor-El's early life. . .beginning with his entering school as a brilliant student of science, but unfortunately not quite as brilliant at making friends outside of his studies.  
 
After graduation, Jor-El joins Krypton's fledgling space program, where he studies and then creates anti-gravity.  Unfortunately, his first anti-gravity ship crashes, stranding the young astronaut he has fallen in love with (Lara) and forcing him to travel to Krypton's moon to rescue her.
 
His next project is more successful. . .developing orbital "prison cells" where convicts sleep in suspended animation while undergoing rehabilitating hypno-training, after which they can become part of society again.  Now that he's become a successful and recognized scientist, Jor-El and Lara decide to marry.
 
Unfortunately, their application for marriage (Filed with Krypton's automated Matri-Comp marriage compatibility computer) is denied.  As Lara fights against the man Matri-Comp seems to have arbitrarily assigned her (despite her never meeting him previously), Jor-El fights against a criminal that has sabotaged his prison capsule and battles his pursuers using Jor-El's own stolen anti-gravity technology.
 
After defeating the escaped criminal, clues point toward a rival member of the science council as being behind the plot.  Returning to Lara, Jor-El discovers her hypnotized and declaring her love for a strange man.  Jor-El discovers that the Matri-Comp has developed intelligence and feelings, and has decided to marry Lara through an android proxy.
 
After destroying Matri-Comp and its android, Lara and Jor-El are finally able to marry, and we end the story at their wedding with Superman himself somehow being present, but with an assurance we'll be told why and how in the next issue!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Say what you will about Bronze Age comics, but the writers of that era were able to pack a LOT into a little space!  The amount of story to be found in this issue would easily take up 3 or 4 issues of a modern comic.  But for all the information packed into this comic, it's actually a pretty brisk read.  
 
The story jumps from place to place a bit, and the whole back half involving Jor-El fighting against an escaped criminal and a marriage computer gone mad seems tacked on just to provide some action.  Despite these few things, I found this to be a decent read, even though Superman is probably my LEAST favorite comic book character.  
 
I think this story kept my attention mostly because with each page that went by, I kept wondering "How much more stuff can they put in this thing?" This single issue is like a Dagwood sandwich of comic writing!  It's a teetering pile of stuff crammed between two covers!  Even the bare-bones synopsis I provided above takes up six paragraphs.  
 
The art is. . .it's okay.  It compliments the story without trying to take it over.  I saw Howard Chaykin's name on this and was expecting something a little darker and grittier, but I guess this is one of those cases where the inker has more of a hand in things than usual.  The lines are a lot cleaner and sharper than what I would think of when I see Chaykin's name on a comic.
 
 
Overall, I have to tip my hat to Paul Kupperberg on this one.  His writing isn't fancy or flashy, or particularly deep, but he tells a story in one single issue that would take months of modern comics to tell.  It's not all good. . .there are definitely parts that seem tacked on for obligatory action scenes that could have been trimmed. . .but for the most part, this was a decent read.
 
NEXT!

ISSUE TWO

THIS PLANET IS DOOMED!

 
THE COVER:
 
Again, sort of "Meh".  I like the interesting details on the city of Kandor, but other than that, this just seems like a pretty unremarkable Superman comic cover.  Sorry Superman fans.  It's just me, I guess.
 
THE STORY:
 
We pick up the story shortly after Jor-El and Lara's wedding at the end of issue #1.  Jor-El and his father are attacked by an alien ice bird long thought to be extinct during a visit to Antarctic City.  Jor-El's father is severely injured and falls into a coma before being able to tell Jor-El his reason for the visit.
 
Jor-El searches his father's papers and makes a terrifying discovery. . .his father's research indicates that Krypton's planetary core is unstable and within the next few years, the planet is doomed!  Jor-El (and his trusted assistant, Kal-El. . .who is actually Superman trapped in the past on Krypton) wastes no time in trying to find a way to evacuate the planet.
 
Unfortunately, Kryptonian politics delay the project until Jor-El and several other scientists friendly to his cause pool their talents and own resources to at least try and save some of the doomed Kryptonians in gigantic space arks of Jor-El's design when the time comes.
 
Jor-El's father briefly regains consciousness and tells his son that the real reason behind their visit to the Antarctic was because he had discovered a gigantic alien ship in the ice. . .but dies before he can reveal the location.
 
As Jor-El searches for the alien craft, Kal-El designs a robot capable of doing the work of 100 men, and construction of the first Kryptonian evacuation ark begins.  
 
BUT THEN!
 
An unidentified craft attacks the capital city of Kandor, ripping it from the ground, and then shrinking the city before departing!  Along with Kandor goes the ark under construction, the super-construction robot, Jor-El's fellow scientists working with him on the project, AND the supply of rare fuel needed for the starships!  All hope seems lost.
 
With Kandor gone, Krypton is plunged into panic.  As the Kryptonians try to hold their society together without their capital city, Jor-El receives even more bad news. . .his assistant, Kal-El has gone missing (Superman discovered a way off-page to return to Earth and his own timeline).  Despite the crushing hopelessness of it all, Jor-El vows to continue with his project somehow, if only to save his own recently-born son, who is named Kal-El in honor of Jor-El's faithful assistant.
 
With the newly-reformed science council now behind Jor-El's research, he begins investigating other dimensions as an alternative to the gigantic space arks.  During his research, he discovers the Phantom Zone.  It's unsuitable for general habitation, but Jor-El convinces the Science Council that it would be a better place for criminals than the expensive system of orbiting suspended animation prison satellites he created years ago (in issue #1).
 
AND THEN. . .
 
Jor-El finally discovers the location of the crashed alien ship that his father had discovered!  It seems to hold all the answers needed to help the Kryptonians escape into space locked inside its strange technology.  Unfortunately, during a test flight, a criminal named Jax-Ur fires a powerful rocket, causing the alien ship to crash before completely destroying Krypton's moon, Wegthor!
 
Jax-Ur is captured and is the first criminal sentenced to the Phantom Zone, but the loss of the alien ship's technology and the destruction of the launching facility on Wegthor together spell the end of Jor-El's rescue plans for the people of Krypton.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I THOUGHT there was a lot going on in the first issue.  The second issue ups the ante at least a few notches by bombarding the reader with so much story that even a major event like the capital city of Kandor literally being ripped from the planet and stolen by Brainiac takes up ONE page.
 
That's it.  Right there.  Capital City gone.
 
While I admired Kupperberg's compressed storytelling in the first issue, here it just seems like too much.  The story jumps from place to place so quickly that it's difficult to get invested in any one thing before it's gone and you're reading about something else.  Even writing the synopsis above, I glossed over several plot points for the sake of space and readability. 
 
Extremely compressed storytelling aside, this issue also seems strange because Superman himself plays a fairly large supporting role, with practically no explanation as to why or how beyond one single tiny editor box: 
 
We don't need no stinkin' exposition!
 
Reading this comic in 2021, I was able to hit the internet for more information. . .discovering that this story (for some strange reason) ties heavily into Superman #141, from 1960, which tells the story of how Superman accidentally ended up on Krypton in the past, got to know his parents, and fell in love, before managing to escape despite not having any powers under the red Kryptonian sun.
 
It seems like an odd story path in tying so strongly into a single Superman issue published almost TWENTY YEARS before the story at hand. . .especially during the Bronze Age, where comics weren't generally kept and collected the way they are now.  One wonders what the thinking was behind the idea, when there was really no way at the time for the average reader to go back and reference. . .well. . .just about ANYTHING not in the card catalogue at a library or in an encyclopedia (For my younger readers, they were a sort of multi-volume printed versions of Wikipedia that took up a lot of space.  Just kidding.  You know what an encyclopedia is, right?  , I feel old).
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
It just seems really strange to tie a good chunk of this story to a single comic book issue published in 1960.  Beyond the single editor note pictured above, Superman is just sort of. . .there. . .in full Superman garb for most of this issue without any further explanation.  Maybe they were afraid a Superman comic without Superman wouldn't sell?  
 
Overall, this issue suffers from some extremely compressed storytelling that causes the story to jump from place to place without any real time to dwell on any single story element.  Combined with the strange decision to tie this issue in with an issue of Superman published twenty years previously, this whole second chapter of World of Krypton seems a bit confusing.  It's not BAD, mind you.  It's just a little hard for me to get into.
 
NEXT!

ISSUE THREE

THE LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON

 
THE COVER:
 
Now HERE'S the winner!  What a glorious comic book cover!  I'm not even a Superman fan and I absolutely LOVE this cover!  The colors, the composition, the. . .everything! There's not a single thing I don't like about this piece of comic art.  It was worth buying this set of comics for this cover alone!
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from the previous issue, we follow Jor-El shortly after Jax-Ur is sentenced to the Phantom Zone for destroying Krypton's moon, Wegthor.  Because of the destruction, the Science Council votes to ban all further space travel and rocket research, despite the protests of Jor-El.
 
Unable to convince the Science Council of the need to evacuate the planet, Jor-El continues his research on his own, knowing that he will be condemned to the Phantom Zone if caught.  Suspecting Jor-El of disobeying their command, the Science Council secretly assigns an agent to follow and watch him.
 
Jor-El discovers a large piece of debris from the destroyed alien ship (from issue #2) orbiting Krypton and calculates it will land in the Scarlet Jungle.  He suspects it is the remains of the ship's engine.  As he waits for it to crash so he can retrieve the technology, Jor-El continues his rocket research, not suspecting that the Council's Agent, Par-Es is watching.
 
When the debris from the alien ship finally crash lands, Jor-El travels to the Scarlet Jungle.  Realizing he's being followed, he subdues Par-Es using his anti-gravity belt (that he invented in issue #1) and brings the wreckage back to his lab.
 
As earthquakes rock Krypton, Jor-El works to the point of exhaustion trying to build at least one working rocket to evacuate his wife and son from the doomed planet.  Unknown to him, he has contracted Scarlet Jungle Fever, which makes him weak and unable to resist the mental commands of a group of Krypton's worst criminals (including General Zod) plotting to escape the Phantom Zone.
 
Realizing something is wrong with her husband, Lara foils the escape plot and helps Jor-El recover from the fever.  He wastes no time in continuing to build a rocket, and finally manages to complete his work as the earthquakes wracking the planet cause the city to crumble around him.
 
Jor-El puts his son into the rocket, but Lara refuses to go with him. . .preferring to die with her husband and trusting that their son will thrive on his new homeworld of Earth.  As the rocket with baby Kal-El launches into space, the planet explodes behind him!
 
In the end, we witness baby Kal-El being found by the Kents in Kansas and we return to the present day, where Superman vows never to forget Jor-El and Lara, or the destroyed world of Krypton.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then.  Finally we get to the meat of the story. . .the destruction of Krypton.  This issue is a little more tightly-focused than the other two.  There are still some seemingly random plot threads thrown in (the attempted Phantom Zone escape comes directly to mind) that look like they're there to pad the length out and add a little action to the story, but not nearly as many as in previous issues.
 
Because of the tighter focus and relative lack of digressions, this issue is probably the best of the bunch, story-wise.  It's a relentless countdown from the Science Council outlawing space research to the explosion of Krypton, shown to the reader in a single glorious splash page. . .
 

The actual ending of the story, with baby Kal-El being found and Superman reflecting on his parents' lives, seems a bit rushed.  But then again, what should I expect after a dramatic countdown to a planetary explosion?
 
Overall, I enjoyed this issue a lot.  Where the first two seemed a bit overwhelming as they piled on information and story digressions, this issue was tighter and more focused, delivering a page-turner of a story that kept me invested even though I already knew the ending.
 

CONCLUSION

 
While doing a bit of basic research to try and ease my confusion over Superman himself playing a supporting role in issue #2 of this series, I discovered that MOST of this series is actually supposed to tie together a series of 27 "Fabulous World of Krypton" back-up features that had appeared in Superman comics during the 70's.  This explains why seemingly random story digressions kept appearing throughout.  
 
I also learned that the overall story was originally supposed to appear in DC's "Showcase" series as part of the lead-in to the Superman movie in 1978.  But then the movie was delayed and Showcase was cancelled before that could happen, leading to this interesting experiment by DC to build a coherent continuity to Superman's past becoming the very first comic book limited series.
 
Knowing that this whole affair was actually built from barely-related story elements written over the course of about twenty years gave me a new perspective on things.  Where I did see it as a bit of a mess, but still a sort of fun read.  I now see it as a valiant attempt to make one story out of many, with the explosion of Krypton the established ending.
 
Even knowing the story behind the story, I'm still not sure they entirely succeeded.  I called the first issue a "Dagwood Sandwich" because of all the story points stacked inside a single comic.  I'm thinking that, reading this with the benefit of 40 years' worth of hindsight, the editors might have done the writer a disservice by trying to cram EVERYTHING that had been written about Krypton up to that point into a three issue story.  
 
The final issue sort of bears this out with its tighter focus on the inevitable end of Krypton.  If the writer had maintained that focus through the whole series instead of having to diverge to things like the tale of Krypton's automated Marriage Computer somehow developing feelings for Superman's mother (from issue #1, for one example), this strange little piece of comic book history MIGHT not be relegated to the bargain bin because the story would be a lot more readable than it is.
 
As it stands, World of Krypton (mostly the first two issues) is just overstuffed to the point that it's bursting with things that don't move the actual story along.  Don't get me wrong. . .it's not BAD.  It's actually well-written and the art is interesting, but the story jumps from place to place as it tries to incorporate story elements from almost 30 different sources.
 
At the end of the day, not being much of a Superman fan, I found this series to be interesting more for the story behind the story than the actual story at hand.  If you are a Superman fan and are interested in "Pre-Crisis" Superman continuity, you'll probably get more mileage out of the actual story itself than I did.  
 
I'd say that just for its place in comic book history as the first limited series, World of Krypton deserves to be read at least once.  If you spot it in the bargain bin, go ahead and give it a look.
 
Up Next. . .
 
It's July!  I'm a bit late off the starting line, but how about some Captain America?
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

 
Every now and then here at Longbox Junk, I like to delve a bit into the corners of my collection that aren't so. . .well. . .Longbox Junk-y.  Those comics I own that are a little older and "worth" a little more to collectors than most of the bargain bin finds that are the meat and potatoes of this blog.
 
Case in point:  Avengers #58 from 1968.  It's regarded as a minor "Key" comic because it's the second appearance (and origin) of The Vision.  According to various sources it's "worth" a bit north or south of $200 in the condition mine is in (which is really good, considering where I got it from).  So it's not the most "valuable" comic in my collection, but it ain't nothing, either.
 
I paid five whole bucks for my copy at an antique shop, where it was hiding unbagged and forgotten among a stack of old Archie and Richie Rich comics, so how 'bout dat?  
 
The Longbox Junk price I paid for this comic just goes to show that there ARE still great old comics to be found out in the wild, and not just at the click of a mouse on the internet.  Finding this one was a very nice surprise, and really made my day.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Every now and then I delve into those corners of my collection that hold the older and more "valuable" comics, and this is one of those times!  Step this way to the Longbox Junk paper time machine, if you please. These goggles are for your safety.  Make sure to fasten your seat belts securely.
 
*Lowers ridiculous steampunk goggles and takes hold of gigantic lever with both hands*
 
Everyone ready?  Let's do this!
 
*Pulls giant lever. . .the number "1968" flashes on a screen above*
 
WEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOO-WEEEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOO!!
 
And here we are! 1968. . .right in the middle of the "Mighty Marvel" era of comics!  Please remove your goggles and watch your step as you exit the Longbox Junk paper time machine.  To our left is Avengers Headquarters, where the call has gone out for Earth's mightiest heroes to assemble and ponder the possibility of adding a mysterious new member to their ranks.  
 
Follow me, please, and let's listen in. . .

THE AVENGERS #58

MARVEL COMICS (1968)

 

EVEN AN ANDROID CAN CRY
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: George Klein
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE COVER:
 
By the beard of Odin! Are there any among us who will deny the greatness of this John Buscema masterpiece? I SAY THEE NAY! The stark white (well, sorta cream-colored on my copy) background perfectly frames the colorful assemblage of Avengers!  It's an almost perfect example of what makes up a classic "Team Shot" comic book cover.  When it comes to old-school superhero comic covers, it doesn't get much better than something like this, in my humble opinion.  Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale with a fantastic splash/title page featuring Black Panther answering an "Avengers Assemble" summons and making his way to Avengers Headquarters.  There's several great splash pages in this issue and you can bet I'm going to feature them all in this review!  This one reminds me of Eisner's Spirit title pages. . .
 

Panther is sort of new to the Avengers (he hasn't even met Iron Man or Thor yet) so he's surprised to find a room packed full of Earth's Mightiest Heroes (and we get a great half-page mini-splash group shot).  He's even more surprised to find The Vision among them, because the last Panther heard, Vision was fighting AGAINST the Avengers.
 

Vision informs Black Panther that he's there because he wants to join the Avengers.  Henry Pym (AKA Goliath) gathered the Avengers together to consider the strange request.  Panther is on board with Vision joining up, but Iron Man and Thor are hesitant.  Membership in the Avengers is a privilege not to be taken lightly and they know little about Vision's powers and nothing about his origin.  Captain America decides to put Vision to the test by attacking the mysterious android. . .
 

As several of the Avengers attack Vision, he easily defeats them without harming anyone by using his fantastic strength and power to alter his body structure from insubstantial to super-dense.  The battle ends before it gets out of hand by Goliath telling everyone that Cap had attacked in order to give a demonstration of Vision's powers.  The Avengers all agree that Vision is definitely a heavy hitter, but are still reluctant to let him join without learning more about his background.
 
 
Thor calls the meeting to order for a formal vote by reading the Avenger's scroll of membership and briefly describing the honor and distinction becoming a member of the Avengers brings to an individual. . .and in doing so, we get yet another fantastic group shot splash page!  Yeah, I know.  This review is a little more picture-heavy than usual, but just LOOK at that Buscema art!
 
 
Realizing that the Avengers need more information about his origin, Vision struggles to remember, and then with a mighty push of willpower, he manages to break through a mental block and he clearly remembers the moment of his awakening by his "Master", Ultron 5!
 
Ultron teaches Vision about his powers and that he has been created for one purpose. . .to destroy the Avengers!  Vision struggles against Ultron's commands, but his newly-created will is no match for that of the malevolent machine that has created him.
 
 
Even though Vision has remembered more of his origin, there is still some mystery surrounding him.  Henry Pym (AKA Goliath) remembers working on a similar sort of android, but is frustrated because he can't remember.  Thinking maybe he has the same kind of mental block that was preventing Vision from remembering his past, the Avengers decide to investigate Pym's abandoned laboratory and try to learn more.
 
At Pym's lab, he finds a memory recording machine and using it, he remembers that it was HE who created Ultron!  At first, Ultron was merely a crude robot, but it quickly learned and transformed into an intelligent mechanical terror!
 

Ultron attacked its creator, taking Pym by surprise and easily defeating him.  The evil robot then erased Pym's memory of the incident by using his own memory recorder on him.
 
 
As the Avengers further investigate Pym's abandoned lab, he realizes that there is a missing memory tape of Wonder Man (AKA Simon Williams).  We then get a recounting of the Avenger's earlier run-in with Wonder Man, who was secretly working with Baron Zemo when he enlisted the help of the Avengers to help him find a cure for the deadly disease he was dying of.  
 
Turning on his new allies, Wonder Man was able to defeat the Avengers before learning that Zemo planned on murdering them.  He then turned against Zemo and freed the Avengers, helping them to defeat Zemo's team of villains.

 
Unfortunately, his turning against Zemo sealed his fate.  Zemo had the only cure to Wonder Man's disease.  Knowing he was dying, the Avengers rushed him to Henry Pym's lab and made a recording of his brain patterns before he died.
 
Vision is shocked by the realization that his brain is actually the stolen pattern of Wonder Man!  The mystery of Vision's origin now mostly solved, the Avengers return to their headquarters to finally determine if Vision is worthy to join them.
 

After a short meeting, Goliath delivers the good news to Vision. . .he has been found worthy to join Earth's Mightiest Heroes!  As the other Avengers welcome the android onto the team, he remains stoic before asking for a moment to himself.
 
 
And as Vision cries with happiness out of the sight of his new comrades, the reader learns that the artificial being has more humanity in him than he is letting on, and there are still mysteries surrounding The Vision.
 
 
The End. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Part of the fun of doing these "Retro Reviews" is learning a bit about the comic at hand and increasing my general knowledge of the wonderful world of comic books.  So bear with me a bit.
 
A little research tells me that there was an editorial edict at the time preventing Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor from being regular characters in The Avengers, due to them headlining their own titles. Because of this, the appearance of the three heroes together in this issue was a bit of a special event.
 
Because the three heaviest hitters in the Avengers couldn't really be IN the Avengers on a regular basis, The Vision was the first character created specifically to be a member of the Avengers instead of appearing elsewhere and then joining up.  So there's a pretty interesting story behind the story to be found here, if you feel like looking into  it.
 
But enough of that.
 
Look, I'm gonna be honest here and admit that, comics or movies, Vision is my LEAST favorite Avenger.  I guess he just seems like a bit too much of a stretch for my comic book suspension of disbelief. Once I realized that this issue was going to be centered around the origin of The Vision, I almost didn't even want to read it.  But then there was that great John Buscema artwork waving me in and asking me to give this a fair chance. . .if only for some great pictures.
 
And guess what?  I found myself liking this story a LOT more than I thought I would.  
 
Okay, I'll admit that Vision's origin IS pretty convoluted (and it gets worse going forward through the years), especially the part about Wonder Man.  That just sort of came in out of nowhere, and reads almost like something that was thrown in at the last minute. . .but even that was sort of interesting in how they tied in a minor character from years before into the introduction of Marvel's new heavy hitter Avenger.
 
But convoluted origin aside, I found this story to be well-written and engaging.  It's told in an unusual manner, with no "villain of the month" to be found except in flashback, and delivering (what must have been pretty shocking at the time) several surprise revelations.  
 
A story like this would take twelve or more issues to tell these days, but the compressed storytelling of Roy Thomas gives the reader basically FOUR short stories in ONE issue!  Thomas doesn't waste a single word from cover to cover on this one.  It's amazing to me that so much story can be packed into so few pages.
 
And then there's the art.
 
That fantastic John Buscema cover drew me in, and his wonderful superhero art kept me in to the last page.  Every panel on every page of this comic is simply a joy to look at to begin with, and THEN Buscema threw in several awesome splash pages that you just want to keep turning back to!  Simply put, the art in this issue is classic.  It's colorful, it's expressive, it's everything I could have ever asked for in a superhero comic.
 

CONCLUSION

 
It's sad to say, but a lot of older comics seem to not have much effort put into them.  It's pretty clear to see that they were written for kids and meant to be disposable.  This is not the case with Avengers #58.
 
From the amazing cover to the final splash page of Vision hiding his emotions from his new teammates, you can see that Roy Thomas and John Buscema were creating something that they KNEW would stand the test of time. . .something that could still bring joy to a comic reader in the far off future year of 2021.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Back to the bargain bins!
 
May is Star Wars month, so how something from that galaxy far, far away?
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

 
It's been a while.  How about we crank up the paper time machine and take a little trip back in time for a Longbox Junk Retro Review?  Ready? 
 
*Puts on ridiculous steampunk goggles*
 
LET'S DO THIS! *Pulls gigantic lever*
 
WEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOO-WEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOOOOO!
 
And here we are. . .1966!  Watch your step when exiting the cabin.  
 
We've come to the sixties to take a look at the single issue Gold Key put out featuring a character called G-8 and his sidekicks, The Battle Aces.  I bought this comic as part of an auction lot several years ago and have absolutely no idea who G-8 is. . .but part of the fun of doing these Longbox Junk Retro Reviews is being able to educate myself a little bit through these older comics in my collection, and then passing that along.  So bear with me for a moment.
 
A bit of research shows me that G-8 is a character hailing from the pulp fiction era, with 110 (!) books featuring the character written by Robert J. Hogan between 1933 and 1944. . .meaning he wrote a full book roughly every month for ten years straight!  I can barely manage to get a blog post out every week, so I stand and give the man a round of well-deserved applause!
 
G-8 himself is an American adventurer, spy, and aviator operating in the thick of World War I.  There's not much representation of WWI in comics. . .the only thing that jumps to mind are the "Enemy Ace" stories. . .so the setting is definitely an interesting choice.  
 
G-8 seems to have been fairly popular, but without the staying power of pop culture stalwarts such as The Shadow, Green Hornet, Tarzan, Zorro, and The Lone Ranger. . .characters also hailing from the same period.  I'd say he's more on the level of a Doc Savage, The Spider, or The Avenger. . .pulp fiction characters that were very popular in their time, but faded from view as the years went by.
 
One of the interesting things about G-8 is that through all the stories written about him, his true identity was never revealed!  He was always just G-8.  I'm not sure if there's any other character that I know of that can claim the same thing.  So I give a nod of appreciation toward Robert J. Hogan for keeping the mystery going for so long.
 
I'm not sure exactly WHY this comic exists.  It seems a bit of a strange bird.  It doesn't adapt any of the published G-8 stories, and even though it was written 20 years after the last G-8 novel, it seems to assume that the reader knows everything about the character already.  
 
That tone of assumption is sort of interesting and makes me wonder where the demand for this story came from.  It doesn't look like any of the original stories were reprinted until the 1970's, when Doc Savage reprints started fueling a resurgence of interest in pulp fiction, so it's a bit of a mystery to me how this obscure character was even in mind for a comic book.  Maybe someone on the editorial staff was a fan of the G-8 stories when they were younger.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Enough of that.  Let's take a look at this comic and see what's going on.

G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES

GOLD KEY (1966)

 
 
G-8 AND THE SECRET WEAPON
 
SCRIPT: Leo Dorfman
PENCILS: George Evans
INKS: Mike Peppe
COVER: ??? (George Wilson)
 
THE COVER:
 
There's no information out there on who painted this cover, but I'm going to hazard a guess of prolific Gold Key artist George Wilson, based on the resemblance of the main character to Wilson's version of Tarzan (and Korak, Son of Tarzan).  Wilson was also sort of fond of using dark orange as a background color.  So I'm fairly confident in my guess on this.  It's not exactly a burning question demanding an answer, but feel free to correct me if you have information otherwise. 
 
MOVING ALONG. . .
 
The cover itself is a glorious example of Gold Key's trademark painted covers.  I love the orange background, and the explosions are EPIC!  This is a cover packed full of motion and action brought to life by the painter.  It's not my favorite Gold Key cover (I'd say the King Kong one-shot from 1968 is my favorite I've seen so far), but it's definitely a great piece of eye-catching art.  Let's get inside and see what this is all about!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale during World War I, deep behind the German lines, as G-8 parachutes through the darkness after his plane is shot from the sky. . .
 

Disguising himself as a woodcutter, G-8 makes his way to the German field headquarters at Feldhausen.  His mission: to gain solid information regarding rumors of a massive German offensive.
 
Once inside the base, G-8 trails a German Lieutenant he overhears saying that he works in the planning department.  At the Lieutenant's house, G-8 knocks him out and then skillfully disguises himself as the German.
 
The next morning, G-8, in disguise, goes to the planning department. He quickly discovers that he's too late and the plans for the offensive are already being delivered to the front lines!
 
 
G-8 quickly pursues the German messengers in a stolen car.  He runs them off the road and steals the secret battle plans.  As he reviews them at a nearby inn, G-8 is baffled by a missing piece of information.  The plans call for a massive attack carried out by dozens of units. They are to strike after something first occurs. . .but that something is not described.
 
 
After making copies, G-8 heads to the front lines to deliver the plans to their original destination, to avoid suspicion.  While he is there, the allies attack.  G-8 uses the artillery fire as a distraction so that he can leave the German trenches and make his way across the dangerous stretch of no man's land in order to deliver the battle plans to the allied command.
 
 
Once across friendly lines, G-8 returns to his home base at Le Bourget Airfield, where he is reunited with his "Battle Aces" comrades. . .wingmen Nippy and Bull, and his manservant, Battle.  Reporting to Chief of Staff General Frazier, G-8 discusses the stolen battle plans and his concern over the missing information.  
 
Over G-8's protests, General Frazier decides to attack before dawn on the day of the planned German offensive, hoping to take them by surprise.  He orders G-8 and his men to take part in the attack.


The next morning, G-8 receives a frantic message from General Frazier.  It seems that G-8's fears of the missing information being part of some sort of German secret weapon have come true.  The allies are under attack and being decimated by an unknown force!
 
G-8 and his wingmen rush to the scene to find the allies in disarray as German forces move in to take over their abandoned positions.  G-8, Nippy, and Bull dive in on the attack!
 
 
A fierce battle against German fighter planes leads to G-8 being shot down over no man's land.  After making his way back to friendly lines, G-8 visits the field hospital in search of information about the attack. 
 
He discovers from terrified survivors that the weapon threw off showers of sparks and made a weird howling sound before massive explosions caused panic along the allied forces.
 

Wanting to learn more about the strange German weapon, G-8 once again disguises himself as a German soldier and infiltrates the units at the abandoned allied positions.  While there, he discovers a clue. . .a piece of metal in a bomb crater marked with the name of a manufacturing plant in the town of Steussel, behind enemy lines.
 
After evading suspicious German officers and killing a guard, G-8 escapes the German trenches and begins making his way toward Steussel to investigate the new information.
 
 
Once at Steussel, G-8 infiltrates the Rouse factory and witnesses trucks being loaded with crates of tiny aircraft engines.  Not sure what to make of it, he dodges guards and goes deeper. . .not realizing that the front lines have called the German Intelligence Director about a possible saboteur who killed a soldier on the front line and that might be headed toward Steussel.
 

IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
G-8's companions, Nippy and Bull are flying patrol when they spot a German Fokker.  After shooting it down, the dying pilot deliriously mumbles directions.  Nippy and Bull quickly realize that they have just been given the information that G-8 is risking his life behind enemy lines trying to gain. . .the location of the German secret weapon!
 

Back at Stuessel, G-8 has taken over a truck, disguised himself as the driver, and is following a convoy of vehicles that he believes is heading for the location of the German secret weapon.
 
Overhead, Nippy and Bull, flying a captured German plane that had been stored at their airfield, are headed toward the same destination.
 

As G-8 follows the convoy, they arrive at a hidden mountain valley with a base carved into the cliffs.  G-8 finally spots the German secret weapon. . .a gigantic zeppelin, but also having the wings of a heavier than air craft, all done up to look like a huge eagle!
 

As G-8 investigates the huge hangar containing the hybrid zeppelin bomber, he discovers that the miniature engines are being fitted onto bombs to make a kind of guided missile.  He also discovers his wingman Nippy in disguise as a German officer.  
 
Nippy leads G-8 to where he and Bull have hidden their captured German plane and the three of them form a plan. . .attack with the German plane and drop down onto the zeppelin during the confusion and take it over, then use it and the guided bombs to attack the German front lines after destroying the base.
 

The plan to capture the hybrid zeppelin and destroy the hidden base goes as planned, with the bomber raining complete destruction down on the Germans, but before they can turn the weapon on to the front lines, a stray shot ignites the hydrogen gas.
 

 
 
Nippy and Bull manage to escape before the gigantic bomber explodes.  Afterward, as they survey the wreckage and consider the devastating guided bombs, G-8 knows that the Germans aren't done with their diabolical schemes, and this is just the beginning.
 

 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Hmmmm. . .okay.  Not bad.  Not great, mind you, but not too bad. 
 
What we have here is a decent little war story that remains very readable even 55 years later and me coming in with very little information on the main characters (just what was in a Wikipedia article).  
 
G-8 is an interesting character that reads like a WWI James Bond as he dons disguises, infiltrates the enemy, and makes narrow escapes by using misdirection and his own considerable wit.  Throw in some aerial combat in rickety WWI biplanes and you have a pretty exciting war story in an interesting setting.
 
Unfortunately, no comic is perfect and this comic is no exception.
 
While the main meat of the story is good, there are a couple of elements that fall flat.  The objective of G-8's efforts. . .the German secret weapon. . .is the worst offender.  There doesn't seem to be a clear reason as to why their gigantic hybrid airplane/airship has to be done up like an eagle.  It just seems silly and doesn't make sense except as a visual cue that the Germans are insane.  And really, it just seems like putting a hat on a hat when you consider that the rocket-powered bombs are the ACTUAL secret weapon.
 
The tone of assumption that the reader already knows everything about the character (that I mentioned above in the introduction) is the second most obvious stumbling block keeping this story at the level of "Pretty Good".  The comic reads less like something meant to introduce and interest readers in a new character and more like an issue of a comic in the middle of a long-running series.  There ARE small bits of exposition scattered here and there, but no more than a few sentences of it before heading back into the story.
 
That said, even with those two major missteps, the writing is good.  The dialogue is snappy.  The story moves along at a brisk pace from scene to scene.  It's not a bad little story at all. . .it just could have been better with a bit more attention from the editor.
 
On the art side of things. . .
 
It's a sad fact that although Gold Key had some of the greatest covers in comic history, the interior art can never come close to what is promised on the front.  This comic is no exception.
 
That said, the art in this comic is actually better than what's to be found in many Gold Key comics.  It follows a rigid and unimaginative panel structure, but the art itself is dark and moody.  Nicely-inked and surprisingly well-colored where a lot of Gold Key comics can be a bit sloppy and heavy-handed on the colors.  The scenes of aerial combat are particularly well-done.  It's not the best comic art I've ever seen, but it tells the story well without distracting from it. . .for the most part.
 
There IS one strange thing about the art that caught my eye and brought me out of the story a bit wherever it popped up.  If you scroll up and look at the scanned pages above, take note of the German helmets.  They look oddly different. . .like they were added later, possibly by the inker.  They just don't look right.
 
Other than the strange German helmets, the art in this comic is pretty solid.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, G-8 and His Battle Aces is a pretty good war story with an unusual WWI setting and featuring a main character that makes his way through the tale with an interesting mix of disguise, deception, and wit.
 
Assuming the reader knows everything about G-8 coming into the tale, as well as some pretty ridiculous visuals on the German secret weapon that is the main narrative drive, keep the story down at the level of "Pretty Good". But even with those couple of stumbles, this is still a decent read.
 
I got this comic as a random part of a comic lot at an estate sale auction, but I see that there are copies to be found for sale online for around twenty bucks.  If you are a fan of war comics and want something a little on the unusual side, then definitely keep an eye out for G-8 and His Battle Aces.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I don't think I'm quite done with one-shots yet. 
Let's take a look at another handful, shall we?  We shall!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

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

 
It's almost Halloween!  That special time of year when kids taking candy from strangers is actually encouraged!  Here at Longbox Junk, we've been handing out all sorts of Halloween treats. . .a lot of candy corn to be sure, but there's been a few full-sized Snickers bars in there too.
 
Unfortunately, the Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party is almost over.  Just this last one to go.  I think I did pretty good this year.  This post is #15. . .one more than my Halloween Horror comic spree last year, so there's that.
 
But enough of that!
 
On to the comic at hand.  We're heading back to the Bronze Age for a look at a comic absolutely STUFFED full of legendary comic talent.  Just LOOK at the credits below!  Bernie Wrightson, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and more. . .All in ONE comic!  How can this NOT be good?
 
Let's dig in!

CHAMBER OF DARKNESS #7

MARVEL (1970)

 

COVER: Bernie Wrightson
 
THE COVER:
 
Bernie Wrightson is rightfully regarded as a legendary comic talent, and a cover like this tells me why.  It's not the greatest cover I've seen from him (My personal favorite is Swamp Thing #9), but it's still a really good cover.  It has an awesome, dynamic style that gives the figures a sense of movement and life that is so recognizably Wrightson that you don't even need to see his signature on it.  A Bernie Wrightson cover is a great start to ANY comic!
 
THE STORIES:
 
Four stories in this one.  Two of them reprints from ten years earlier.  I look at the credits here and find it hard to believe all these great names are under the cover of a single random Bronze Age "horror" comic!  Let's check these stories out. . .
 
GARGOYLE EVERY NIGHT
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas & Bernie (Berni) Wrightson
PENCILS: Bernie (Berni) Wrightson
INKS: Bernie (Berni) Wrightson
 
After a series of grisly murders, an old craftsman known for sculpting gargoyles and other strange monstrosities comes under suspicion.  During a search of his workshop, the constable find nothing, but two townfolk discover a solid gold gargoyle hidden in a back room.  
 
They return later, and over the desperate pleas of the old man they have subdued and tied up, the two of them dismember and melt down the golden gargoyle.  But when the clock strikes midnight, the old man transforms into a terrifying creature.  As it closes in on the two thieves, it tells them that the golden gargoyle was the only thing keeping him from killing more people!
 
A great start!  It's a tale following the well worn path of "Greedy fools get what's coming to them", but the writing is engaging and lively.  What REALLY makes this story great is the fantastic artwork by Bernie Wrightson. . .who even puts himself in the story as narrator (see the splash page above).  There's a reason Wrightson is regarded as a legendary comic talent, and it's very plain to see why here.  The detailed, yet exaggerated and darkly inked figures with expressive faces almost seem to move across the page with a life of their own.  Every panel is worth lingering over for an extra moment or two.
 
BONUS:  A little research shows me that this is Bernie Wrightson's first work for Marvel!
 
We're off to a great start. . .NEXT!
 
I WORE. . .THE MASK OF DROTHOR!
(Reprinted from Tales to Astonish #11 - 1960)
SCRIPT: Stan Lee (?)
PENCILS: Steve Ditko
INKS: Steve Ditko
 
A renowned mask maker uses ancient books to mold his greatest creation, the Mask of Drothor, replicating the face of a legendary sorcerer despite warnings of a curse on any who try to do so.
 
Realizing that he has made a mask so lifelike that it actually resembles a human face down to its finest detail, the mask maker decides to use it to get rich by robbing wealthy clients.  
 
During his first robbery, he trips an alarm and is forced to flee the police.  He returns to his shop and tries to remove the mask, but to his horror, he discovers that his own face beneath has taken on the appearance of Drothor.  Unable to disguise himself again, the police catch up and arrest him.
 
Okay. . .not a bad story.  It follows the paths of "Greedy fools get what's coming to them" AND "Fool ignores the ancient curse". But like the first offering in this issue, although the story is well done and engaging, the real appeal here for me was the fantastic art. . .this time courtesy of Steve Ditko.
 
Honestly, I've never really been a fan of Ditko, but delving into some of these older comics in my collection has slowly been changing my mind.  Where I find a lot of his art to be a bit basic (yes, I'm talking about Spider-Man, please don't hurt me), I've seen other examples of his art that show me exactly why Ditko is considered a comic legend.  
 
This little story is a fine example of some great Ditko art that I've seen.  It's dark, fluid, exaggerated, yet lifelike.  There's a great sense of movement and action to the characters.  Ditko's art here elevates an otherwise pretty average story.
 
MOVING ALONG!

THE MASTERMIND
SCRIPT: Tom Sutton
PENCILS: Tom Sutton
INKS: Tom Sutton
 
A mad scientist brings to life his greatest achievement. . .a supremely intelligent creature, impervious to disease, injury, and age. . .presumably immortal.  As the scientist rages with glee that he finally has the means to conquer his enemies and all mankind, his creation turns on him.  If the creature is indeed superior, then he has no need for a master!
This great little twist on Frankenstein takes up only two pages, but Tom Sutton manages to give us a complete and compelling story in a very small space!  I've gone on a bit about the comic legends to be found in this issue like Bernie Wrightson and Steve Ditko, but in my extremely humble opinion, Sutton is a bit of an overlooked legend in his own right. 
 
He's possibly not as well known as the others to the general comic audience because he worked less with superheroes (except the more supernatural ones like Vampirella,  Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night).  But his art has a frantic, cartoony and vibrant style that brings dynamic life to his characters.  It's a style I really enjoy and this is a fine little example of it.
 
AND FINALLY. . .

I FOUND THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN!
(Reprinted from Tales to Astonish #13 - 1960)
SCRIPT: Stan Lee (?) & Larry Lieber (?)
PENCILS: Jack Kirby
INKS: Steve Ditko
 
A criminal called "Big Carl" Hanson steals what is supposedly a genuine photo of the Abominable Snowman.  Deciding that he can make more money off of actually capturing the creature than just off the photo, Hanson heads to the Himalayan mountains.
 
As he begins his search for the creature, Hanson is repeatedly warned that the picture is cursed, but he ignores the warnings as superstition.  Eventually, nobody will come near him and he has to continue his search alone.
 
As he heads higher and higher into to mountains and his supplies run out, Hanson slowly turns more and more savage until he is little more than a wandering beast himself.  He has become the Abominable Snowman.
 
 
Yet ANOTHER story following the "Greedy fools get what's coming to them", but with some "Don't ignore the natives" thrown in. . .officially making this entire comic about the follies of greed, with four out of four stories following the same lines.
 
That aside, this is actually another well written and engaging story that I really enjoyed.  But like the other stories in this issue, what makes this little tale sparkle is the fantastic artwork. . .this time courtesy of comic legends Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
 
I think this might possibly be the first time I've ever seen non-superhero work from Jack Kirby, and I have to say that I liked it a lot!  Maybe it's Ditko's inks here, but this little random story really grabbed me, where a lot of his superhero work doesn't (I know. . .I know! Please don't hurt me!) 
 
I wouldn't mind seeing more of Kirby's non-superhero work, based only on the strength of what I'm seeing here.  Overall, this was a great finish to this comic!

CONCLUSION

 
Just looking at the credits on this one, I KNEW it was going to be good, which is why I saved it for last.  My prediction turned out to be true.  Story for story, page for page, and panel for panel, this comic was probably my favorite of the entire Halloweeen Retro Review bunch!  
 
There is so much great talent on display here, that I am happy that this comic even exists.  The stories are all very nicely done and engaging, but what really shines here is all the great art to be found!  Every page in this comic is a feast for the eyes.
 
If you're looking for a single comic absolutely PACKED with legendary comic talent, then this is what you're looking for.  The actual issue in good shape is a bit pricey, but I found mine in decent condition in a back issue bin for ten bucks, so they're out there.  If not, then it's been reprinted in a couple of different collections as well.  
 
WELL. . .
 
That's it for the Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review Party for this year.  I hope you had as much fun as I did checking out a some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics with a supernatural twist in my collection!
 
So what's next, you ask?
 
With all due respect to the fine and friendly folk of Old Guys Who Like Old Comics, I think I've spent enough time on the other side of 1986 for now. It's time to get back into the dollar boxes and some actual Longbox Junk!
 
Something I haven't done in a while that is one of the unique things I do here at Longbox Junk is reviewing an entire series from first issue to last.  I think that's what I'll do next.  But which one?
 
So many to choose from! Suggestions are welcome.
 
In any case, I'll figure it out.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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

 
It's October!  As we head toward the final stretch, just a few days before Halloween, I feel the need to provide a very important public service announcement:  
 
Ladies.  Just because there IS a "Sexy Hand Sanitizer" Halloween costume, that doesn't mean anyone should wear a "Sexy Hand Sanitizer" Halloween costume.  Okay?  I shouldn't have to tell you this.  Just sayin'.  
 
Public service announcement over.  Let's talk about comics!

I've got the Longbox Junk paper time machine prepped, fueled, and ready for a little trip backward 67 years to the Golden Age of comics for a look at some of the late, great Stan Lee's horror writing.  Ready?
 
*Puts on ridiculous steampunk goggles*
 
Let's do this!
 
*Pulls gigantic lever*
 
Here we GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


MENACE #7

ATLAS (1953)

 
(Wait. . .is that Phil from Modern Family?)

COVER: Carl Burgos
 
THE COVER:
 
I'm gonna be honest and say that I got this comic in an estate sale auction lot of about a dozen comics I mainly bought for the 1968 Dell King Kong one shot (probably the LEAST "valuable" comic in the lot).  I've never read this comic because the cover just isn't that interesting to me.  
 
Until now, all it got was a quick flip through to judge condition, and then off to be forgotten in the depths of my many longboxes.  The cover is okay, I guess, but nothing special.  Beyond the bold yellow on black of the title and the nicely done female figure, nothing really grabs my eye.  Let's get inside this thing. . .
 
THE STORIES:
 
The Golden Age never disappoints when it comes to getting your money's worth out of a comic.  Four full comic stories and a two page text space filler for a single 1953 dime.  Not a bad stack of stories.  Let's see what they're about!
 
FRESH OUT OF FLESH!
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: Syd Shores
 
In the future, a bounty hunter tracks and kills humanoid robots after their failed bid to enslave mankind.  At the end of his mission, only one robot remains.  The bounty hunter discovers that it is him.
 

A great start to this comic!  Stan Lee provides us with a tale that is strangely similar to sci-fi classic "Blade Runner" fifteen years before the story it was based on (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. in 1968) was even published!  But even without the similarities, this is a great little nugget of science fiction with a Twilight Zone twist.  
 
NEXT!
 
THE DREAM CASTLE
(Text-Only Story - 2 pages)
SCRIPT:  (?)
 
A writer by the name of Henri Drago is haunted by constant nightmares of being chased through a castle by ghostly creatures. . .the dream always ending at a certain door before he could run through it. 
 
 Eventually, the dreams interfere so much with his work that, on the advice of a doctor, he takes a vacation to Italy.  One day, after a mysterious storm, he finds himself taking shelter in a ruined castle. . .the castle from his dreams!
 
Sure enough, he is pursued through the castle by spirits after being told that he is the last in the family line of the evil nobleman who lived in the castle long ago, and that the spirits can only be free if he dies.
 
He finds himself at the door where his nightmares always end, but when the throws it open and runs through, he falls to his death and frees the innocent spirits.
 
 
 
Actually, this story is pretty long and elaborate, compared to other text pieces I've seen during this little Retro Review journey I've been on.  It's a decent enough story following the well-trodden path of "Nightmares become reality", but what REALLY caught my interest was the "Polio Precautions" public service announcement at the bottom of the second page (scanned above).
 
  It was an interesting reminder that the world has been through pandemics before, and not so long ago.  This tiny little thing in a 67 year old comic book actually brought me a moment of peace and reflection on the ability of mankind to make it through the worst times.  Sometimes, a little hope can be found in the most unexpected places.
 
NEXT!
 
THE PLANET OF LIVING DEATH
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS:  Russ Heath
 
An alcoholic first officer accidentally causes his star ship to crash on the deadly planet of Osirus.  The survivors are met by hostile aliens that telepathically communicate that they will free the humans and repair their ship if they are given the secret of atomic energy.  
 
The rest of the crew refuses, but the first officer (knowing he will go to prison if he returns to Earth) bargains with the aliens to give them the atomic secrets in exchange for a ship of his own and the Captain's beautiful daughter.  
 
The aliens agree, but as the traitor prepares to take off, he finds to his horror that the Captain's daughter isn't HIS Captain's, but the alien Captain's. . .a hideous and deadly creature!
 

Another engaging and entertaining science fiction story from Stan Lee!  It follows the very well-worn path of "The traitor gets what he deserves", but the twist ending actually took me by surprise.  Not an easy thing when you've read as many comic stories as I have!  But what REALLY makes this story is the outstanding artwork of Russ Heath!  It's just a fine example of some great Golden Age artwork, with thick inks and interesting designs.  Every panel is worth lingering over for an extra moment.
 
MOVING ALONG!
 
THE WITCH IN THE WOODS
SCRIPT:  Stan Lee
PENCILS: Joe Sinnott
 
A young boy's father decides to break his son's habit of reading scary comic books by reading him fairy tales, starting with the story of Hansel and Gretel.  But he discovers that the stories from his childhood are even worse than what can be found in comics.
 

During the bit of research I did into this comic, this story is actually the only one that anyone seems to mention because it was written by Stan Lee (along with a few other stories along these lines) in direct response to the unfolding drama that led to the Comics Code.  It ruthlessly mocks the idea of censoring comics by comparing them to "innocent" fairy tales that are actually quite gruesome when you take a close look at them.  
 
The story itself is mostly just a comic adaptation of Hansel and Gretel bookended by the boy and his father.  It's a decent enough story with some really good artwork by Joe Sinnott, who I know more as an inker than a penciller, especially from his work with Jack Kirby.  
 
AND FINALLY!
 
YOUR NAME IS FRANKENSTEIN!
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS:  Joe Maneely
 
Frankenstein's Monster rises from a long entombment and wanders, looking for companionship.  Unfortunately, despite saving a couple from their burning farmhouse, the Monster is judged only on his looks by the townfolk, who attack him.
 
As the Monster lays dying, the couple he saved reflect that perhaps it is they who are the monsters.
 
 
This comic goes out on a good note with a well-written tale following the "Man is the monster" path that Stan Lee followed a LOT during his later years writing superhero tales.  It's a familiar message, but Lee gives this story some interesting pathos by writing it in the first person.  Joe Maneely brings the story to life with some great, creepy artwork that really catches the eye.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, I have to say that this was a great comic!  Not a single clunker to be found and very readable despite being almost seventy years old, with lots of great art to be found through the whole thing.  
 
This is probably one of the best Golden Age comics I've read.  I hate to admit it, but a lot of the older comics I have seem like not much effort was put into them.  This one just feels different, like some thought and creative energy was given by Stan Lee and the various artists.  Is this the best comic I've ever read?  Not even close.  That said, it's definitely something I can point to when someone asks about good Golden Age comics I've read.
 
If you're a fan of Stan Lee, Horror comics, Golden Age comics, or any combination of the above, I can heartily recommend this comic.  Unfortunately, good copies of the original seem to be pretty pricey. . .you're not going to find this one in the bargain bin!  The good news is that it's been reprinted in collections a couple of times, and it's also on ComiXology, so it won't break the bank if you want to check it out. 
 
Up Next. . .
 
Halloween is just about here, but I think I have time to squeeze in one more bit of Longbox Junk Halloween fun!  
 
Join me on a trip back to 1970 for a look at a comic featuring Bernie Wrightson, Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and MORE!  IN ONE COMIC!  That's a heck of a lot of talent for one comic book.  
 
Marvel's Chamber of Darkness #7.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place where I just keep on writing comic book reviews even though nobody asked me to!
 
It's October!  It's that special season where the vegetable nobody cares about any other time of year suddenly costs three bucks a pound.  But here at Longbox Junk, we aren't carving pumpkins, we're reviewing comic books!
 
This year, I've decided to add a little pumpkin spice to the Longbox Junk Halloween party by taking a look at some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics in my collection with a supernatural twist.  So far, it's been a mixed bag, but I've been having fun.
 
So let's keep the party going with a trip back to 1973 for some more spooky Bronze Age fun from Marvel Comics, shall we?  We shall!
 

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #5

MARVEL (1973)

 
 
COVER: Rich Buckler (?)
 
THE COVER:
 
In my extremely humble opinion, this one is just sort of okay.  It's not bad, the figures of the old man and the woman are nicely done, and I really like the bright red background on the title, but for some reason this cover just isn't connecting with me that much.  I guess they ALL can't be winners, so let's just get inside and see what else is going on.
 
THE STORIES:
 
A pretty hefty handful of stories. Not bad for two thin dimes, even if one IS a reprint. There's some great names on the credits, so here's hoping there's some good stuff to be had!
 
THE DEVIL'S DOWRY!
SCRIPT: Larry Lieber
PENCILS: Jay Scott Pike
 
In a small Central American country a ruthless and ambitious Colonel enlists the aid of a local sorcerer to first gain control of the military, and then to become El Presidente.  Once he has risen to the height of power, he imprisons the old man and forces his beautiful daughter to marry him. . .not realizing that without the sorcerer's power to keep her under control, his new bride changes into a bloodthirsty creature with the full moon.
 

 
 
It's a good old "Greedy fool gets what is coming to him" story.  Even though the path is well-worn, this story is pretty engaging and well written.  The art is very nicely done. . .not the best I've ever seen, but not too bad at all.  Overall, this is a decent story and a good start for the comic.
 
NEXT!
 
HAUNT AND RUN!
SCRIPT: Tony Isabella
PENCILS: Paul Reinman
 
After a drunk driver accidentally kills a hitchhiker, he and his wife are tormented by her spirit and doomed to drive forever, never arriving at their destination. . .
 
A very short, but chilling story that's a twist on "Ghostly Hitchhiker" urban legends.  Tony Isabella manages to pack a lot of terror into a little space here. . .really making the reader feel the growing fear of the doomed couple.  I especially liked the humorous contrast between the caption boxes and the dialogue balloons at the beginning (on the page scanned above). The art here is good, but not great.  It tells the story nicely, but doesn't reach much higher than that.  Overall, the best story in here and a very nice little nugget of spooky fun!

NEXT!

IT CAN'T MISS
(Reprinted from Journey Into Mystery #1 - 1952)
SCRIPT: (?)
PENCILS:  Jay Scott Pike
 
A desperate criminal on the run to avoid being locked up in prison discovers the solution to his problem in the form of a dead man who looks exactly like him.  Unfortunately, the dead man happens to be an escaped patient of a mental institution, as the criminal discovers when he apprehended and locked up for life. . .
 

Okay, not a bad little tale.  It would make a great episode of The Twilight Zone.  But what interested me most about it was the art, which is by the same artist that did the first story (above), but twenty years earlier.  The difference is so great that it actually looks like two different artists worked on these stories.  It's interesting to me to be able to compare two stories done two decades apart by the same person in the same comic.  I'm not sure I've seen that before.   Truthfully, Pike's earlier art seems pretty crude and basic compared to his later work. 
 
Overall, not a bad story at all.  Moving along!
 
AND FINALLY!
 
A TOMB BY ANY OTHER NAME!
SCRIPT: Don McGregor
PENCILS: Syd Shores
 
After a bank robbery gone wrong with a murdered guard, the robber flees into the blistering hot desert, where his dying mind breaks from reality and convinces him that he is freezing to death. . .
 

Another pretty good story.  The twist in reality between thinking he's freezing while dying from the heat reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode (A little Wiki Walk tells me it's called "The Midnight Sun") where the earth is heating up beyond a livable state and it's seen at the end that the main character actually has a fever and the earth is freezing.  Pretty obvious "inspiration" aside, it's a decent enough story.  The art is good, but nothing spectacular.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, what we have here is a pretty good comic that has a couple of standout moments. . .Tony Isabella's creepy little twist on the old "Ghostly Hitchhiker" story and the interesting comparison of decades-apart artwork by Jay Scott Pike.  
 
This is a fine example of a comic that is good, but not great.  Riding straight down the middle of the road from cover to cover (except for those couple of interesting standout moments).  I'd say that if you're looking for a pretty good handful of  Twilight Zone-style stories, then keep your eye out for this one in the bargain bins.
 
Up Next. . .
 
We're getting close to the end, but it ain't Halloween yet, so the Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review party keeps going!  Let's take another trip back to the Golden Age, shall we?  We shall!
 
Atlas Comics' Menace #7 from 1953, featuring Stan Lee wearing the writing hat on all the stories. . .
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where you can find all the comic reviews you ever, er. . .NEVER. . .asked for!

 
It's October!  It's that time of year when you can buy a ten pound bag of candy and not feel a single bit of shame!  Here at Longbox Junk, we've been having a fine little Halloween party.  All this month I've been taking a look at some of the older and/or more valuable comics in my collection that lean toward the supernatural.  It's been a bit hit or miss so far, but it's been a lot of fun digging into the darker corners of my longboxes.
 
Let's keep the party going with another visit to the Bronze Age!
 
Ready?  Let's do it!

SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE #3

DC (1975)

 
COVER: Ernie Chan
 
THE COVER:
 
Another great Halloween cover!  The top is a little cluttered, but that doesn't take away from the creepy image of a hand. . .reaching. . .slowly. . .toward. . .YOU!  Ernie Chan does a great job of bringing this nightmarish scene to life!  Let's see what's inside. . .
 
THE STORIES:
 
There's just two stories in here this time.  Let's hope they're good ones!
 
PATHWAY TO PURGATORY
SCRIPT:  Jack Oleck
PENCILS:  Ruben Yandoc
 
A cruel Duke who rules his fiefdom with an iron fist despite being born without legs desires to marry his young and beautiful ward, which is against the religious law of the land.  Determined to win her love by being a "whole man", he tries to gain legs by appealing to a monk purported to have the power to perform miracles.  
 
When he is spurned by the monk after revealing that he wants legs in order to marry his young ward, the Duke flies into a rage and beats and imprisons the monk before throwing in his lot with the powers of evil and going to a witch to try to gain legs.
 

  Initially, the witch refuses, but after she is tortured by the Duke and her daughter is killed by the cruel man, she relents and uses her powers to give the Duke legs, but she also delivers a curse upon him before he kills her to hide his secret.
 

Now whole, the Duke proclaims his love for his ward, but since he has raised her from the time she was a child, she sees him as a father figure and rebuffs his proposal. 
 
 Infuriated, the Duke goes ahead with the wedding plans, even if he has to force the girl to the altar.  The religious authority of the realm refuses to go along with the Duke's sinister plans, but relents after being threatened with torture and death. 
 
And so the wedding takes place, but on the wedding night, the young bride rushes from the Duke's bedchamber, screaming!
 
 
The Duke's subjects quickly seize their cruel ruler and drag him to the gallows, hanging him once it is revealed that he has the legs of a goat.  And so the witch has her final revenge from beyond the grave!
 

The End.
 
Okay, not bad at all!  I really enjoyed this little story a lot.  It follows a pretty well-worn morality play story path of "If you deal with evil, you get what you deserve", but the setting and writing. . .the sinister tone of "You KNOW this isn't going to end well" , grabbed my attention and kept it from start to finish.  
 
But what really brought this little story to life was the beautiful, detailed art!  Just look at those pages scanned above!  I've never heard of this artist, but a bit of research shows me that he's a Filipino artist whose main U.S. comic work was on DC's "horror" titles (such as this one).  I'm definitely going to keep my eye peeled for more of this fantastic artist's work!
 
Overall, a great start for this comic!  A well-written story backed up by amazing art. What more could any comic fan ask for?  Nothing!  I couldn't ask for anything more than what I got right here!  
 
NEXT!
 
THE SWINGER
SCRIPT: Mike Pellowski & Maxene Fabe
PENCILS: Ramona Fradon
 
Carlton Phipps is a "Playboy" Millionaire, but is also a huge coward. 
 
After being embarrassed one night, he trains in martial arts until he becomes an expert.  Wanting to show off his new skill, he goes to the worst part of town and accidentally kills a man. . .worse, it's a police officer!  
 

 
He quickly blames the killing on a nearby homeless man and is hailed as a hero after falsely testifying at the man's trial, which leads to his execution. . .
 

But after the innocent man's hanging, Carlton begins having constant paranoid feelings of being choked and becomes convinced that the ghost of the homeless man is trying to get its revenge by killing him. . .
 

Finally, a doctor tells Carlton that he needs to forget his delusions with a long trip and change of scenery.  But as he pilots his private plane to Rio, a terrible storm strikes, forcing Carlton to bail out.  The next day, he's found hanging from his parachute, dead.  The ghost of the innocent man has finally gotten his revenge!
 
 
The End.
 
A very nice little "Revenge from beyond the grave" story!  It's short, sweet, and a bit predictable, but I really liked it a lot. . .mainly because of the standout artwork from Ramona Fradon.  She's an artist I just learned about not long ago, and I decided to keep my eye out for more of this remarkable woman's artwork.  Her cartoony, yet detailed, style reminds me a lot of Will Eisner, and I haven't seen a single panel of bad art from her yet!
 
Overall, we have another winner!  It's a well-written little morality play story with a "He got what he deserved" ending backed up by some simply amazing comic art.  There's nothing I don't like about this story!
 

CONCLUSION

 
There's only two stories to be found here, but panel for panel they're some of the best I've seen during this little Longbox Junk Halloween party.  They aren't really "Horror" stories, but are more along the lines of something you might see on The Twilight Zone, but both of them are well written and engaging.
 
The best part of this comic for me was the art!  First, some fantastic super-detailed art from an artist I've never heard of, but am definitely interested in seeing more of based on the strength of what I see here.  And then some amazing cartoony art from remarkable female comic artist Ramona Fradon, who is someone well worth looking into for those not familiar with her work.
 
Together, the art and writing deliver the kind of storytelling that is the reason that I'm a comic fan in the first place!  This isn't just a good Halloween comic, this is a good comic, period.  It's definitely a nugget of Longbox Junk gold.
 
Up Next. . .
 
We're going to stay in the Bronze Age, but head back over to Marvel for a look at 1973's Chamber of Chills #5.  Voodo Magic! Ghostly Hitchhikers! Criminal Insanity and More!
 
Be there or be square!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!
 
It's October!  I love this time of year, even though in all the hustle-bustle of Christmas shopping, Christmas music, and holiday crowds it's hard sometimes to remember to keep the peaceful spirit of the season in mind. 
 
But THAT'S Wal-Mart.  
Here at Longbox Junk, we celebrate Halloween in October. . .I know, crazy, right?  
 
This year for the Longbox Junk Halloween review party, I've been taking a look at some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics with a supernatural twist lurking in my collection.  It's been fun so far, so let's keep the party going!
 
It's just NOT Halloween without a werewolf howling at the moon!  So let's take a look at a comic featuring Marvel's own Bronze Age Lycanthropic anti-hero, Jack Russell, AKA. . .WEREWOLF BY NIGHT!
 
AAAAAAAAH-WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! 
 

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #11

MARVEL (1973)

 
 
COMES THE HANGMAN
SCRIPT: Marv Wolfman
PENCILS: Gil Kane
INKS: Tom Sutton
COVER: Gil Kane & John Romita
 
THE COVER:
 
I absolutely love this cover!  The transformation from man to monster reminds me of some of my favorite Incredible Hulk covers.  John Romita's inks bring out the best in Gil Kane's pencils.  I'm not usually a big fan of Kane's art, but this is probably one of my favorite things by him I've seen.  It's just a great Halloween horror cover!  Let's get inside. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale at an unknown location and in a laboratory of the mysterious organization known as "The Committee".  They have captured Jack Russell's father, Phillip Russell and are torturing him in order to discover the location of Jack.  Phillip refuses and the torture continues. 
 


IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
In Venice Beach, Jack decides it's time to move out of his friend Buck Cowan's bungalow before his personal (and werewolf) problems become everyone else's problems too.  
 
He moves into an apartment complex called Colden House.  There he (and the reader) are introduced to several female neighbors, as well as the mysterious Mr. Coker, who likes reading books about the occult and werewolves (Dun-Dun-DUN!)
 
 
ELSEWHERE. . .
 
A masked character calling himself "The Hangman" saves the life of a young woman after she is attacked by a drug addict.  After killing the attacker, he brings the terrified woman back to his secret lair, where he claims to be protecting her from "evil" by keeping her (and several other women) in cages.
 
WHILE THAT'S GOING ON. . .
 
Jack manages to elude his new neighbors, who want to party with him, and make his way to the beach, where the full moon transforms him into The Werewolf!  He stumbles onto a group of young men partying on the beach.  Jack wants to avoid conflict, but they attack!
 
The Werewolf easily takes down the attackers, even though they outnumber him 5 to 1.  Inside the wolf, Jack keeps himself from killing any of them.  The police show up and The Werewolf flees the scene.
 
 
MEANWHILE. . .
 
In the Hangman's secret lair, the vigilante removes his mask and reveals his whole origin story to his newest terrified captive.  He was a young man who believed in good vs. evil, but when he went overboard killing Ratzi's during WWII, he was court-martialled and sentenced to prison for six years.
 
After being released, he couldn't find a job because of his criminal record and came to the conclusion that "The System" and all those within it were corrupt, and so he decided to fight back by becoming the costumed crime fighter known as The Hangman!
 
LATER ON. . .
 
As The Werewolf continues to elude the police after the attack at the beach, he runs into his sister, Lissa, and his friend, Buck.  As he approaches, The Hangman (who was patrolling the area looking for evildoers to take down) mistakenly thinks he is going to attack them and jumps down to their defense!  Lissa knows that Jack is the Werewolf, and she tries to stop the fight from  happening, but nobody listens and the Werewolf and Hangman go to it!
 
A brutal battle ensues between The Werewolf and The Hangman, with both of them taking a beating, but still coming back for more!  The police arrive on the scene and Jack convinces the Werewolf to retreat. 
 
 
BUT. . .
 
As the Werewolf flees through the city to avoid the police, The Hangman follows and manages to capture him with a rope, hanging him from a streetlight!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Obviously, this comic is right smack in the middle of an ongoing story, but even so, it was a pretty good read.  The Hangman seems to be a bit ridiculous in execution, but his origin (man whose illusion of good vs evil is shattered by the reality of war) is actually interesting as an idea.  
 
Despite the somewhat weak villain, I really liked the rest of the story.  Like the cover, the storyline reminds me of something that might be found in Incredible Hulk in that the Werewolf just wants to be left alone, but everyone keeps attacking him and he's forced to fight back. . .which just makes people want to keep attacking him!  Marv Wolfman does a great job making the reader feel the frustration of Jack/ The Werewolf, and that's the best part of the story.
 
On the art side of things. . .
 
I have a confession to make.  I'm not a fan of Gil Kane's art.  
 
Look, I KNOW that he's a legendary comic talent that stands SO high on his pedestal of admiration in the eyes of some comic fans that my humble opinion doesn't really matter. . .and I'm not here to try and knock anyone off their pedestal, but I've always found his art to be a bit. . .basic.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I'm more familiar with Kane's work from Silver Age issues of Green Lantern.  The difference between his work there and here is like night and day!  Looking at the cover and the interior art here, and then comparing them to his Silver Age work, I think I can safely say that with a good inker, Gil Kane's art is actually pretty impressive!  
 
Please don't hurt me.  It's only my humble opinion, and I really don't have much of Kane's work to base it on!  Suggestions of issues or series to MAKE me a fan of Gil Kane are welcome.
 
Whether it's Gil Kane or Tom Sutton making it look good, this is one good looking comic!  The Werewolf is snarling and , a truly nasty looking creature of the night unlike some of the later issues of this series.  The opening splash page of Phillip Russel being tortured is just awesome in its creepy detail, and really one of the best splash pages I've seen in a while!
 

CONCLUSION

 
Even though The Hangman is a somewhat weak villain, this story is well written and engaging.  It ends on a cliffhanger that makes me want to see what happens next, so it hits a good mark in managing to draw me in even though it's part of a continuing storyline that I don't know what came before.
 
The art is dark, it's brutal, it's nasty.  For an artist I don't normally like, Gil Kane delivers on the promise of the awesome cover by throwing down some great horror visuals that I wasn't expecting in a mainstream Marvel comic.
 
Overall, this isn't the best comic I've ever read, but I really liked it.  If you're looking for some good Bronze Age Mighty Marvel Monster fun, then I can certainly recommend this issue!  
 
Up Next. . .
 
We've been on the Marvel side of the Bronze Age for two posts now.  
Let's head over and see what DC was up to with 1975's  Secrets of Haunted House #3.
 
Be there or be square!

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