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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

August 2021

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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!

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

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

THE SAVAGE SHE-HULK #1

MARVEL (1980)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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Retro Review - Fantastic Four #50

4084 views • Dec 1, '18 • (1) Comment

Welcome to another "Retro Review" edition of Longbox Junk, where I take a look at some of the more "Collectable" or "Valuable" comics I own instead of my usual dollar box fare.  This time out (in keeping with my current focus on Mainstream Marvel comics) we're taking a trip back to 1966 for a look at Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack "King" Kirby's Fantastic Four #50.

I have to admit something right off the top here. . .

I've never been a fan of the Fantastic Four. 

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Longbox Junk - Silver Surfer: Parable

6629 views • Nov 16, '18 • (3) Comments

With the recent passing of Stan "The Man" Lee, it's inevitable that there will be a flood of tributes complete with lists of great characters, classic issues, and epic storylines. . .of which there are indeed many.  Stan Lee was a prolific writer with a great imagination and creative talent and, along with equally-talented collaborators such as Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, he helped to create many of the characters that we know and love today.  

So of course we're going to hear about Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and The X-Men.  We're going to hear about "This Man, This Monster" and "Spider-Man No More", among many other classic stories. . .and rightly so!  

BUT. . .

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