Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Marvel Holidays From Gil Kane, circa 1976

Marvel published a number of Treasury-sized Holiday Superhero Grab Bags back in the 1970s, which I’ve seen discussed everywhere on the web this year, most notably on the LA Times blog, Hero Complex.  Marvel Treasury Edition #13 in 1976 featured a holiday cover by Gil Kane.  Here’s the rough layout:

Gil Kane rough for Holiday grab bag

I really love the fluidity of the figures in this one.  Notice that in this layout, Daredevil is positioned just about the Thing.  Also, note the Hulk’s expression, he’s kind of angry—maybe Santa did not visit him this year? 

Here’s the final colored and inked cover:

Gil Kane Holiday Grab Bag Treasury 13

Daredevil was removed to make room for that giant-sized logo, which the characters are already spilling over.  It looks to me like John Romita probably changed the Hulk’s face to get him in the holiday spirit.

Now I feel like it is Christmas time!  Happy Holidays and Nuff said.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Moebius Iron Man Poster

This was part of Moebius 1980s series of posters for Marvel…

moebius iron man

I had this on my wall at home.  A friend of mine came by and said, “Where’d you get that butt ugly Iron Man poster?”  But I really dug Moebius’ take on Iron Man’s armor, even though it went totally against the Bob Layton versions.  Notice the way that Tony Stark’s facial expressions bleed through the mask, like the metal is soft or organic.  Nuff said.

See also: Moebius Thing Poster

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thing Tuesdays: Moebius Poster

Back in the 1980s, Moebius drew a series of posters for Marvel Comics.  One of them featured Benjamin J. Grimm…

moebius the thing

This is essentially a portrait of the Thing!  I think Moebius captures the tragic side of being stuck in that rocky form.  Nuff said.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Giant-Size Defenders 1974 Marvel Ad

Here’s one of the house ads promoting the first Giant-Size book featuring the Defenders…

giant size defenders ad

Except they promoted it as “Giant Size Super-Teams featuring the Defenders!”  What marketing genius came up with that title?  Fortunately, it was changed to Giant-Size Defenders by the time it was published.  No wonder these books didn’t last long, we could never find them!  Nuff said.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Giant-Size Defenders #1: the Hulk and Wong's Drumsticks

Out of all the Giant-Size books, Giant-Size Defenders #1 is one of my favorites.  I used the logo on the cover as the masthead for this blog.  There's something about seeing Doctor Strange, the Hulk, and Namor teaming up that just gives me a thrill.

Giant Size Defenders 1

The cover looks like it was done by Gil Kane, and I've always liked that motif where they burst of out of comic book pages from previous stories.  It's appropriate because this issue appears to have been produced in a rush, consisting of mostly reprints and only 10 pages of new material!  Yet when it starts off with a splash page like this by Jim Starlin...

Giant Size Defenders 1 Page 1 Starlin can't help but be amazed.  Starlin's Hulk looks like he could burst through anything, Strange looks cosmic, and Namor looks regal.  Here's the inked version of this page without color:

Giant Size Defenders 1 Page 1 Starlin bw

Looks like paste up behind the characters for the comic panel motif. 

The rest of the story is quite a lark.  The Defenders had been together for a couple of years, and by this time had survived the Avengers-Defenders conflict. 

Giant Size Defenders 1 Clea Valkyrie

Valkryie suddenly realizes that she knows little of her team-mates even though she's been fighting alongside them since Defenders #4.  Clea realizes this, and uses her magical abilities to help Val relive some key moments in the lives of the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Namor.  What a convenient framing device for a series of reprints!  They are very good reprints, and I didn't care as a kid when I read it.  It was all new to me and flowed into the new material pretty seamlessly.

Giant Size Defenders 1 Hulk eating drumstick

One of the best things about this story is that it gives us more insight to the relationship between the Hulk and Doctor Strange.  What do they do when they are not saving the world?  The Hulk chows down on massive chicken drumsticks prepared by Wong!  Wong must have Colonel Sanders secret recipe from the look on the Hulk's face in this panel.

I can't wait for Jeff Loeb to bring back the Defenders in the Hulk.  The Offenders (Red Hulk, Tiger Shark, Baron Mordo, and Terrax) sounds like a great enemy for them.  Nuff said.

Update: Comments from my old MT blog...


When I was just a kid, I sent a letter to Marvel asking them to print giant-size comics, just like DC had been doing. Having been a Defenders fan back then, I suggested a giant-sized issue. For which I received a No-prize for. I also think my name was printed on the Defenders pin-up in this issue. Although I can't confirm it, since they spelled Juan with a T. It reads Tuan. But back then, my lettering was not the best. So it may have read as Tuan to them.
Thanks for sharing your story. You prompted me to go back and look at that pin-up. I did another blog post about this since I found it so fascinating.

Strange Saturdays: Ancient One, Doc, Clea by Frank Brunner

In Marvel Treasury Edition #6 (1975), Frank Brunner’s pinup of the Marvel Holy Trinity: The Ancient One (the master), Doc Strange (the student), and Clea (the apprentice).

Dr Strange, Master, Student, Apprentice

This was a welcome return, to see Brunner draw Strange again after he left the regular series.  The Ancient One looked cosmic, Doc looked like a mean magical mofo, and Clea looked…pretty damned sexy. 

Here’s a shot of the black and white version, which I gather sold for a few thousand to some lucky collector:

Doctor Strange Trinity black and white

Nuff said.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Back Issue Tribute to Steve Gerber

Back Issue 31

Back Issue #31 from TwoMorrows is devoted to one of my favorite Marvel writers of the 1970s, Steve Gerber.  There are articles on Gerber's work on Man-Thing, Defenders, Omega, and just about everything he did in his career.  I appreciated reading about the FOOG (Friends Of Ol Gerber) memorial service at SDCC; you can read another recollection of that on ComicMix.  Mark Evanier shares some wonderful memories of Gerber, in addition to Paul Levitz, Tony Isabella, Roger Slifer, etc.

Isn't this cover painting featuring Howard the Duck superb?  Perhaps Frank Brunner will produce a commission like this if you visit his website.  Nuff said.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nothing Swings Like a Marvel Medallion, Baby!


When I was a 12 year old Marvel Maniac, I had a vision of what my young adult life would be.  This vision was formed based on my love for Marvel Comics and what I had read of the Marvel Bullpen and the writers/artists who worked there.  It was something like this;

  • I would live in Greenwich Village, in a cool pad near Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum.
  • I'd have long hair and a beard, just like Serpico, but I'd be much taller than Al Pacino.
  • I would hang out with Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin.  We would discuss philosophy, Marvel continuity, and how to attain cosmic consciousness.
  • On the weekends, Don McGregor and Steve Gerber would drop by and we would go to the movies.
  • Chris Claremont and I would visit Continuity Associates and beg Neal Adams to draw the X-Men again.
  • I'd get a frantic call at midnight from Len Wein or Marv Wolfman, who would beg me to take over writing the Defenders when Gerber decided to leave.
  • Chicks would dig me because I was wearing one of these hip Marvel Medallions...

Marvel Medallions Front

Of course, if I was looking for a girlfriend, I'd wear the Conan medallion.  That's more masculine and the aura of Conan's manliness would seep through the metal, perhaps endowing me with a certain musk.  The Spider-Man and Hulk medallions would be worn when I was around my Marvel buddies.  How would any woman be able to resist that 12K Gold Filled Neck Chain and Holder?  I had visions of dancing in Studio 54 with Andrea True's More More More playing in the background, with the glint of the gold metal reflecting off the disco ball. Or perhaps, more appropriately, Hot Chocolate's You Sexy Thing.

Marvel Medallions Back

I have no idea why I never sent away for these medallions.  I bought the 7-Eleven Slurpee cups, was a charter member of FOOM, and collected all 100 Marvel Value Stamps.  They say just before you die, you think of all the things you regret in life.  Not having these medallions will be one of them for me.  Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thing Tuesdays: The Thing #1, 1983, by John Byrne

The Thing #1 1983

In 1983, Marvel decided it was time to shut down Marvel Two-In-One with issue #100, and launch Benjamin J Grimm in his own title at last!  John Byrne was already writing the Fantastic Four at that time, and became the writer on The Thing, with Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott handling the art.  The only artwork Byrne contributed was this dynamic cover, showing the Thing in the middle of ruined city street.  This cover really got me all excited for this new series.  But when I read the story inside, it was far worse than any issue of Marvel Two-In-One!

John Byrne Thing Commission

Regardless, I’ve always enjoyed Byrne’s rendition of the Thing, he’s right up there with Kirby and Wieringo in terms of capturing that classic look.  Here’s another commission by Byrne to show you what I mean.  Nuff said.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monster Mondays: Giant-Size Chillers with Dracula and Lilith


Back in 1974, Marvel hit their loyal legion of zombies straight in the pocket-book with a new series of giant-size comics.  The first one in the horror line was called Giant-Size Chillers.  A real hokey name, right?  It was supposed to be one of those rotating titles that featured alternating characters, like Dracula, Werewolf by Night, and Man-Thing.  This concept fell apart right after the first story appeared, as you can tell by this long explanation in Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins: “Hope that’s all clear, Flame-Keeper, cause as or right now—you’re on your own!” Giant-Size Chillers was renamed Giant-Size Dracula with issue #2.

Giant Size Chillers #1

But this was a terrific launch to a line of giant-sized horror comics.  Written and drawn by Tomb of Dracula regulars Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, it introduced fans to Dracula’s long-lost daughter of darkness, Lilith.  I just loved this cover by John Romita, introducing his tarted-up vamp offspring to the legion of Marvel adolescents about to go through puberty.  That costume is a classic Romita design, split down the middle in just the right place.  Cher used to wear Bob Mackie designs that looked like this, true believer!

Look at how many logos they had to cram onto this cover to covey the content.  Giant-Size Chillers!  The Curse of Dracula!  Her name is Lilith!  She is—Dracula’s Daughter!  Sheesh!  And yet we somehow we are just blinded by that tiara.

You would never know from this cover that Lilith and Dracula just can’t stand each other.  Nuff said. 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Avengers Mansion, the Mecca of Marvel Manhattan

I’m really interested in seeing what Dan Slott’s going to do with Mighty Avengers.  From his recent interview in Newsarama, I get the feeling he wants to a slightly more traditional Avengers book.  Hank Pym is back on the team and getting some love after years of neglect.  Yocasta is back as well, and since her brain patterns are based on Janet Van Dyne (can’t believe she’s really gone forever), Hank’s going to have a weird relationship with her.  Slott’s bringing back the Scarlet Witch (hopefully rehabilitated) and the Vision.  There’s a new Avengers headquarters in this series, and I can only hope Avengers Mansion is back.

Avengers Mansion: Just a Little Place in Manhattan

I ran across this commission piece by John Byrne yesterday.  How fantastic!  It’s the Avengers, from around issue 150-200 era, with Wonder Man, Beast, Ms. Marvel, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Vision, Scarlet Witch, the Wasp, and Yellowjacket.  Whoever bought this piece is one very lucky Marvel maniac.  The detail of Avengers Mansion below, the view straight down at the Avengers Quinjet, and the positioning of the characters is just superb.  I love the Beast making a face at the window of the Quinjet.  Just imagine how miserable you would be to live next door to Avengers Mansion, with those Quinjets taking off at all hours of the night, the Masters of Evil attacking, Hercules stomping around drunk in the middle of the night, etc.

Avengers Mansion Interior Map

What was inside Avengers Mansion?  More than meets the eye!  This map was made during the early Captain America/Hawkeye/Scarlet Witch years.  Who wouldn’t want to have high tech labs and the greatest weapons collection this side of S.H.I.E.L.D. smack-dab in heart of Manhattan?  Nuff said.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Silver Surfer Saturday: Startling Spider-Man, by Byrne/Austin

Spider-man meets Silver Surfer

If I were to catalog all the great comic-book portfolios that I collected in the 1970s and 1980s, I’d have a nervous breakdown.  Because I foolishly sold or traded them away.  I had a Spirit portfolio set by Will Eisner, a beautiful Ka-Zar portfolio by Brent Anderson, and a Marvel Team-Up portfolio.  I think the above piece by John Byrne and Terry Austin is from that latter portfolio.  Or perhaps it is from a calendar?  Nuff said.

Friday, December 5, 2008

New Avengers 47 homage to the West Coast

You may have been as thrilled as I was to see the big change in Clint Barton’s (who was Hawkeye, who is now Ronin) life in Secret Invasion #8.  When I saw this cover to New Avengers #47, I assumed this would have a story featuring Clint:

New Avengers 47

Alas, Hawkeye is not the main character, it’s Luke Cage and Jessica Jones in a very fine story by Bendis and Gaydos.  It took me a while to recognize what classic Avengers cover (painted by Aleksi Briclot) this is an homage to.  Is that Puck on the lower left hand corner?  He was never an Avenger.  Then my mind warped backward to 1984, when Marvel dared to do the unthinkable…spinoff their greatest super-team!

Avengers West Coast 1

Avengers West Coast #1, written by Roger Stern, drawn by Bob Hall and Brett Breeding.  If you take a look at Briclot’s cover, he credits Hall and Breeding, a very classy signature move.  This four-issue mini-series introduced the West Coast team, with Hawkeye as the leader.  The initial lineup consisted of Mockingbird (Hawkeye’s wife), Iron Man (Jim Rhodes), Tigra, Wonder Man, and the Shroud.  In many ways, this series was a major evolution for Hawkeye’s character, showing his growth from criminal turned hero under the Captain America-led team.

WCA1 Avengers Assemble

I love it when Hawkeye makes that proclamation! It sure does help when you make it on an Avengers compound that resembles Hearst Castle!  Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thing Tuesdays: Beware of Packages from Yancy Street

The Thing scans Yancy Street Gift

This pin-up from Fantastic Four Annual says it all.  Nuff said.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monster Mondays: Gil Kane's Blood-Red Morbius Cover

I was crazy about Morbius ever since he first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #101.  I loved that costume, the way his white-pale skin contrasted against the blue, the fact that maybe it had shrunk in the wash a few sizes.  Morbius is a scientific vampire, he drinks blood because of an experiment gone awry, yet he can fly because...his bones are hallow?  A man of contradictions, that Morbius, but I love him.

Adventure Into Fear 23

Morbius' greatest adventures were in Vampire Tales, in a series of stories written by Don McGregor and Doug Moench.  Adventures into Fear featured Morbius' full color adventures, which had a lot less blood and horror.  But this cover for Adventure into Fear #23, by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer, has always been my favorite one featuring Morbius.  The composition of the piece, with the viewer looking at Morbius from a slightly down angle, with the woman sprawled between his legs, is just terrific.  That gaudy blood-red sunset behind him still sends a chill up my spine, even today.

Gil Kane did hundreds of covers for Marvel in the 1970s.  I bet he banged this out pretty quickly, but that doesn't make it any less great.  He had an instinctual knack for placing figures at dynamic angles.  There's no one drawing today with Gil Kane's unique style or talent.  Nuff said.