Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Mike Ploog Monster Mash for Halloween

What would a Marvel monster version of the Defenders look like?  If Mike Ploog were drawing it, something like this nifty commission done for Leo Chuah on comicartfans.

Mike Ploog Werewolf, Frankenstein, Ghost Rider commission from comicartfans Leo Chuah

Ghost Rider, Frankenstein, and Werewolf by Night on a moonlit night.  Greatness!  Nuff said.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ghost Rider in a Marvel Swimsuit

Ghost Rider in a Marvel Swimsuit?  It really happened, true believer!

Ghost Rider Marvel Swimsuit 1993

The 1993 Marvel Swimsuit issue had this groovy centerfold featuring the Spirit of Vengeance on a beach.  Naked, which means burning on the beach.  Imagine your surprise if you got to this point in the magazine, expect to see something like a sexy Adam Hughes She-Hulk?  Nuff said.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Monsters of Mike Ploog: Frankenstein Covers and Character Designs

Mike Ploog brought his artistic talent to shed light on Marvel's version of the Monster of Frankenstein in 1972.  Here are some of the best covers, with the original black and white art versions for comparison.

Mike Ploog Monster of Frankenstein 2 cover, 1972

Monster of Frankenstein #2 is one of my top 10 favorite Marvel covers of all time, and perhaps my favorite Ploog cover as well.  You can really feel the Monster's pain as he carries his Bride (snuffed out after a horrific rebirth by Victor Frankenstein) away from the castle.  I loved this cover so much, I put a piece of light paper over it, traced it, and inked it in junior high school.  There was a girl in my class who was really impressed by this:  You drew that?  I nodded my head.  What the heck, was she gonna know who Ploog was?

There is one negative thing about the cover: that logo is one of the worst designs for a title that I've ever seen!

Monster of Frankenstein 2 original cover by Mike Ploog, from John Butler on comicartsfans

The original art to this piece is even more stunning, the textures and shadows are wonderful.  Who is the lucky sonofagun who owns this piece?  John Butler from comicartfans, unless it was sold to another person.

Mike Ploog Monster of Frankenstein 3 cover, 1972

After Victor crushed his dream of friendship and love, the Monster gets revenge in issue #3 by murdering Elizabeth Frankenstein on her wedding night.  The cover is just classic horror to the max: the Monster's rage with the full moon in the background, Elizabeth's décolletage, her expression of surprise, and the candles getting snuffed out by the sudden gush of wind.  Just as Elizabeth herself will be snuffed out.

Monster of Frankenstein 3 original cover by Mike Ploog, from John Scarpone on comicartsfans

The original art to Monster of Frankenstein #3.  From the collection of John Scarpone at comicartfans.

Mike Ploog Monster of Frankenstein 4 cover, 1973

Issue #4 featured a departure from the general story of Mary Shelley's novel.  The Monster winds up meeting a tribe of native aborigines who adopt him.  The creature finds a home for a while--until a war with a neighboring tribe kills all of his friends.

Monster of Frankenstein 4 original cover by Mike Ploog, from John Butler on comicartsfans

The original art to Monster of Frankenstein #4 looks a lot more striking in black and white.  If this scan is correct, Marvel flipped the cover.  Notice the mountain and sky in the background--completely erased in the printed cover.  Once again from John Butler's gallery.  I am getting really envious of that dude.

Monster of Frankenstein character prelim sketch by John Romita Sr.

Now here's an interesting behind the scenes look at the design of Marvel's Frankenstein Monster.  This character design sketch was done by John Romita Sr.  There is a note written in ink by Roy Thomas to Ploog.

Mike --
This is (the) version Stan wants to see.  Please call me to discuss.

Mike Ploog Frankenstein Conceptual Prelims from comicartfans Doug Edelman

Ploog then created this Frankenstein conceptual drawing based on Romita's sketch and Roy Thomas' comments.  I think I first saw this in the Essential Monster of Frankenstein a few years ago.  Both of these character design pieces are from Doug Edelman on comicartfans.

Many thanks to all of the Mike Ploog fans on comicartfans for these scans.  It's nice to know that many people love Ploog!

You can also view Ploog's recreation of Frankenstein Monster #6 from a post I did in Jan 2009.  Nuff said.

Update: Comments from my old MT blog...


How come THE MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN was cancelled and lame mutant titles continue?
If I only I knew that answer, Wade! I suspect I like comics such as Frankenstein because they are offbeat and not that popular. But they were exceedingly well drawn and written! Thanks, Richard.
Could the Monster of Frankenstein beat the Living Mummy? How come the Werewolf by Night never fought Man Wolf?
FRANKENSTEIN was very popular in Germany. It was cancelled too, with Issue No.33. But the problem was, that the german issue - only started 1 year after the US issue - was published bi-weekly instead of monthly. So they had to split the Frankenstein comic in two parts.
FRANKENSTEIN only had 9-10 pages with FRANKENSTEIN, the rest was filled with (excellent) Marvel/Atlas Horror Comics.
But it had a strong fanbase here in Germany.
Interesting is No.27, because this was a fill up story, drawn by a spanish artist, that was produced for the german market only.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mike Ploog Man-Thing Recreations

A number of years ago, Mike Ploog produced a series of cover recreations for some of his most famous Marvel Comics from the 1970s.  I'll showcase a few each day leading up to Halloween.

Man-Thing 8 cover by Mike Ploog, 1974

Man-Thing #9 from 1974 has a great yarn about the creature discovering a hidden enclave of Spanish soldiers who had discovered the Fountain of Youth.  They have miraculous potions which can possibly change the monster back into Ted Sallis.  But construction magnate F.A. Schist (fascist) throws several wrenches into this plan.

Man-Thing 8 cover recreation by Mike Ploog for comicartfans Simon Reed

The recreation to this cover accentuates everything.  The Man-Thing is gloopier than ever and the wizened skeletal man in the lower right is scarier.

giant size man thing 1

Giant-Size Man-Thing #1 is one of my favorite all time comics.  Ploog and swamp monsters slugging it out in a giant-size comic, what could be better?

Giant-Size Man-Thing 1 cover recreation by Mike Ploog, from comicartfans Simon Reed

The recreation is pretty cool--notice how great the colors are in this version. 

You can find all these Mike Ploog cover recreations (and more) on comicartfans.  Nuff said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Neal Adams Man-Thing, A Monster Unleashed!

Finding that Neal Adams pinup yesterday reminded me that wasn't the only time the Nefarious one drew Marvel's muck-monster!

Neal Adams Man-Thing Monsters Unleashed 3 cover, 1973

There was this terrific cover to Monsters Unleashed #3 in 1973, featuring Man-Thing cracking a couple of redneck heads as a young woman looks on in horror.  If she's feeling fear, then I don't like the way Man-Thing is looking at her!

Neal Adams Man-Thing panel from Astonishing Tales 12, 1972

But wait--if we go back even further in time--we can find this Man-Thing story that Neal Adams drew, featured as an interlude in Astonishing Tales #12, 1972.  Ka-Zar, the star of the series, met Man-Thing in the Florida everglades.  Since Manny had only appeared in Marvel's black and white Savage Tales #1, this story introduced him to Marvel's color comics.  Man-Thing would become the lead character in Adventure Into Fear #10, a few months later in 1972.

You'll notice the story doesn't have color, it's printed in black and white with yellow tones.  Perhaps it was originally meant for publication in Savage Tales #2?

Neal Adams Man-Thing panel used in cover logo

One panel in this story always stuck in my memory--the one above where Man-Thing watches an old lady walk across the swamp.  Notice the way Manny stands, left arm braced against a tree, right arm supporting himself on the muddy floor.

Man-Thing corner icon

This same pose was used in the Man-Thing cover, the one Marvel usually put on the left-hand upper corner, featuring an iconic shot of the titular character.  Neal Adams' drawing isn't used line by line--but someone must have used that panel above as a reference.  It's exactly the same pose.  Nuff said!

Update: Comments from my old MT blog...


Yes, you've showcased some great Adams art on Manny here! I'm happy to say I own both the magazine and the inside story. Do you know why the inside story is printed with only yellow colors? It's because it was printed from Adam's pure, uninked pencils -- possibly due to, ahem, deadline-problems? -- and hence regular colors would have made (or so at least the production people feared) the artwork too muddy. This was back in the day when the reproduction qualities of comics was far, far below what we find on printed toilet paper in our enlightened days! But it gives us a through-a-glass-darkly view of Adam's glorious pencil work.
FWIW, four years ago I visited Adams at his fancy NYC Continuity studio -- which employs his whole family, including his ex-wife! There I spent some happy hours talking to Neal about comics in the 60s and 70s, but mostly about his, umm, well, "rather radical ideas" in physics. He is, alas, not fully content with having revolutionized comics, so, in his sunset years, he also wants to revolutionize science. 'Nuff said!
Oh, and the day after visiting Neal, I visited another long-standing Art Hero of mine: Frank Frazetta. Yes, it was a good week. 'Nuff said!
(I posted this some days ago, but it never appeared, hence suspect SNAFU, hence I repost.)
Yes, you've showcased some great Adams art on Manny here! I'm happy to say I own both the magazine and the inside story. Do you know why the inside story is printed with only yellow colors? It's because it was printed from Adam's pure, uninked pencils -- possibly due to, ahem, deadline-problems? -- and hence regular colors would have made (or so at least the production people feared) the artwork too muddy. This was back in the day when the reproduction qualities of comics was far, far below what we find on printed toilet paper in our enlightened days! But it gives us a through-a-glass-darkly view of Adam's glorious pencil work.
FWIW, four years ago I visited Adams at his fancy NYC Continuity studio -- which employs his whole family, including his ex-wife! There I spent some happy hours talking to Neal about comics in the 60s and 70s, but mostly about his, umm, well, "rather radical ideas" in physics. He is, alas, not fully content with having revolutionized comics, so, in his sunset years, he also wants to revolutionize science. 'Nuff said!
Oh, and the day after visiting Neal, I visited another long-standing Art Hero of mine: Frank Frazetta. Yes, it was a good week. 'Nuff said!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monster Monday: Neal Adams Man-Thing

I found this drawing of Marvel's Man-Thing in Neal Adams 2008 Sketchbook.

Man-Thing pinup from Neal Adams 2008 Sketchbook

Startling, eh?  Fantastic point of view, as if the viewer were sitting in a tree and seeing Man-Thing trudge through the swamp below.  What makes Manny look up?  Perhaps it is because the voyeur suddenly feels...fear?  Nuff said.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Silver Surfer Saturday: The Vision, Avenger vs Defender!

One of the opening chapters to the Avengers-Defenders war started with Avengers 116, with this fantastic cover.

Avengers 116 cover featuring Silver Surfer and the Vision, 1973

Silver Surfer vs the Vision, as Wanda looks on somewhat helplessly in the background--never mind that she could wipe them all out with a hex spell!  This cover is really well executed by Johnny Romita, with the silver guy nearly flying into the viewer.  Nuff said.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Vision and Scarlet Witch by Dave Cockrum

In Foom #12 (1975), Dave Cockrum provided this double-page look at the Vision and Scarlet Witch.

Vision and Scarlet Witch splash from Foom 12 1975 by Dave Cockrum, I think

You have to picture the Vision's romance with Scarlet Witch as being the high point of Avengers soap opera.  Cockrum presents their love affair, with Ultron seeking to pull him back to the robotic side on the left, while Quicksilver (Pietro, Wanda's brother) was highly against her sister sleeping with an android.  Nuff said.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

John Buscema and P Craig Russell's Vision cover from FOOM 12

This cover to FOOM #12 (1975) featuring the Vision was a unique John Buscema drawing, inked by P. Craig Russell!

Foom 12 Vision cover by John Buscema and P Craig Russell, 1975

I love any cover that makes inventive use of the logo—and having the Vision intangibly glide through FOOM was simply inspired.  Russell keep Buscema’s lines intact, but you can see his style here and there.  Nuff said.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Vision Needs to be Restored to Full Avenger Glory

Vision front and centern on Avengers month April 1975 Marvel Calendar

I think the Avengers comics are pretty darn great these days.  Bendis has shaken up the team with one big event after another: Disassembled, House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion, and Dark Reign.  But there's one classic element to the Avengers team that seems lost in all of this.  And that is the Vision.

Fans who loved the 1970s era of the Avengers will know what I am talking about.  The Vision was the standard bearer of the Avengers.  He appeared front and center on many covers as well as the above pic from the 1975 Marvel Calendar.

Avengers 96 cover by Neal Adams

The Vision was popular for a number of reasons.  The design of the character and his costume was out of this world.  He looked spooky and unreal--like DC Comics' Spectre--and his power to control density and transform into near-ghostly intangibility contributed to this effect.  The Vision was also a robot who struggled with emotions, as you can see on the cover to Avengers 96 by Neal Adams.

Vision brooding on splash page to Avengers 106, by Rich Buckler and Dave Cockrum

The Vision, along with the Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye, were characters who made the Avengers' stories exciting.  That was because Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart could actually change them over time--sometime they couldn't do that easily with Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man.

Sure, I know the Vision's been resurrected in Young Avengers, and he's now in Dan Slott's Mighty Avengers team.  But that version sure as heck isn't the Vision I grew up with.  I want the Vision with Simon Williams' brain patterns, the one who remembers his failed marriage to Wanda, and his entire history with the Avengers' team.  It should be a snap to bring all of this back--just find some memory backups somewhere and rebuild his android body according to original specs.

West Coast Avengers 45

Here's the biggest flaw to me in the entire Avengers saga since Bendis took over.  The Vision was destroyed, ripped apart by She-Hulk during Disassembled, yet none of the Avengers made an effort to restore him back to life?  It doesn't compute.  The Vision saved his team-mates and the world countless times since he joined the team.  In West Coast Avengers #45--after the Vision was taken apart by the US government--Hank Pym rebuilds the Vision very quickly (ok, minus a few memory tapes).  You could say that Skrull Pym would have no incentive to rebuild the Vision after Disassembled--but why wouldn't the rest of the Avengers?

I think 2010, which brings Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man back in Siege, is the perfect time to restore the Vision back to full glory.  And maybe the Scarlet Witch as well.  Do you agree?  Nuff said.

Update: Comments from my old MT blog...


Hi Richard
Love the blog. I've always been a big Vision fan myself, but I guess the difference is that I love the new Young/Mighty Avengers version. I was reading the Byrne run on WC Avengers when they started to basically ruin the origin of the Vision, and eventually turned him into the white version. If you remember, Byrne decided he wanted to resurrect the original Human Torch (which was the Vision's body along with Simon's brainwaves) so he pulled one of those "everything you knew is wrong" tricks and changed everything around. We were left with an even more confusing origin story, as well as a barefoot white Vision. Ack!
Just to geek out a bit more, I think the best reason for no one attempting to rebuild the Vision after Disassembled is that there was no one left to even try. At the end of that story, the Pyms were taking off on vacation, which leaves Tony Stark. Stark was dead broke at the end of Disassembled, which is why he had no choice but to crate him up and put him in storage. By the time the Civil War ended and Tony had resources again, the new Vision was already in action. I sort of like the fact that the new vision the Iron lad (Kang)armor with the old Vision's brainwave patterns. It gets us closer to the old Human Torch body/Wonder Man Brainwave version that we loved as kids.
Hey, on a closing note - it is great to read someone who actually likes Bendis' run on Avengers. He gets bashed everywhere I read, and I personally think he's done more for the Avengers than anyone since Roy Thomas.
Kepp up the great work!
Thanks, Yuri! Nice to know that someone else likes the Vision.
I didn't like how Byrne threw out the Human Torch origin of the character.
Did you read Avengers Forever? In that story, Kurt Busiek tried to factor the Human Torch back in, explaining that Immortus used the power of the Forever Crystal to split the original Human Torch into two entities: one body remained the original Torch while Ultron rebuilt the other as the Vision.
I see your point--trying to explain all of that to new readers is too confusing.
// Richard
I've been reading comics for over ten years and never really been exposed to the vision...not much anyway. I've always liked the idea of the character, but hated his appearance. I mean REALLY hated. As much as I hate Martin Manhunter's look. He's in need of a major redesign. Presumably he'll appear in a movie at some stage, and that might prompt marvel to make him look better. Until they sort that out, I'm happy for him not to be in my comics.
Redesign The Vision? I think not! He's already been torn apart and rebuilt too many times--and in not so great ways. Rob I respect that you like the idea of his character, but really--it you weren't into him and then you want him to be different...maybe he's not for you?
/LOVE The Vision!
//And his colorful costume!
Nice entry on the Vision. I'm as much an enthusiast for the Vision and the Vision & Scarlet Witch love affair as anyone is. Heinberg might have meant well with Vision II, but the similarities are superficial. Vision I was a synthetic human man. Vision II is a computer program emulating a human.
If a writer wanted to have the Vision's body rebuilt, doing that would be trivial, since the brain is undeniably functional. Hooked up to a computer, he could oversee his own reconstruction, as in Busiek's AVENGERS.
There's not much of a point in bringing him back, though, in any sort of body, unless it was part of a plan, and I don't see anyone at Marvel who could write such an introspective character well. He requires an "old school" approach.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thing Tuesdays: Chris Stevens Illustration of Aunt Petunia's Favorite Nephew

I featured Chris Stevens’ Doc Strange illo last Sunday, and his Thing really rocks as well:

Thing- Marker Illo by *chriss2d on deviantART

I love not only how he uses the markers to indicate shadow and texture, but this is a fairly classic portrayal of Benjamin J Grimm as well.  Nuff said.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monster Mondays: Mike Ploog October 1975 Calendar piece with Frankenstein, Dracula, Werewolf by Night!

Marvel Comics started producing calendars in 1975.  For the very first calendar (which I've been able to acquire recently, thanks to eBay), they tapped the best artists of that year...including Mike Ploog, who they unleashed in the month of October.

Ploog October 1975 drawing for Marvel Calendar

The October illustration featured the trio of monsters that Ploog had drawn in their own comics: Frankenstein, Man-Thing, and Werewolf by Night!  The big bad daddy of all supernatural characters, Dracula, lorded over all of them--Ploog had drawn this character as well, when he teamed up with Jack Russell in Werewolf by Night #15.

October 1975 Marvel Monsters day by day

The month of October itself is ridden with monster-sized jokes by Marvel staffers. 

Oct. 4th: Man-Thing with the caption: Save the Everglades--Or Else!  That scares me into taking care of the environment.

Oct. 8th-9th:  Son of Satan asks pop for the hell-horse drawn chariot, but sister Santana asked for it first.

Oct. 13-15: Three nights of the full moon with Werewolf by Night.  Jack Russell's eyes go left, middle, right.

Oct. 19th: Jim Starlin's birthday.  Which is today, Happy Birthday Jim!

Oct. 28th-29th: Two creatures called IT!  The first one was featured in Supernatural Thrillers #1, the second one was a hero who appeared briefly in Astonishing Tales.

Oct. 30th: The Halloween party in Rutland Vermont, which was featured by Roy Thomas in both Avengers and Defenders (Marvel Feature #2).  Several comics creators made the trek to this party.  If only we could go back in a time machine! 

Many thanks to Sanctum Sanctorum Comix for providing the scans of the Marvel Calendars!  Nuff said.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Doctor Strange Sunday: Chris Stevens illustration

Dr Strange- Marker Illo by *chriss2d on deviantART

After searching for new Doctor Strange illustrations, I finally hit paydirt after stumbling upon Chris Stevens’ gallery on deviantArt.  Chris is a wonderful artist who has done many Marvel and DC commissions.  I love his art style and the way he creates these pieces with markers is just unworldly!

This is how Doc Strange kicks back on a Sunday—reading a mystical tome and practicing incantations.  Nuff said.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Silver Surfer Saturday: Esad Ribic

Silver Surfer - Requiem Promo Art by Esad Ribic

Esad Ribic was the artist on Silver Surfer Requiem a few years ago, and he has also worked on a number of other Marvel mini-series (Loki, etc).  I’ve always admired his art—but I think I like these paintings even more than the Requiem series.  The Silver Surfer flying upside down—out of Earth’s atmosphere into the stars—is an awesome concept.

Silver Surfer by Esad Ribic

Now I have to admit—I was a bit fooled by the second picture.  I thought it was a separate painting, but now I realize it’s just the first painting flipped vertically.  Perhaps the colors are tweaked and the bottom is cropped.  Nuff said.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jim Starlin's Rampaging Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner

Jim Starlin did a lot of work during the first year of Rampaging Hulk magazine, featuring work with Alex Nino and with Steve Gerber's Man-Thing.  He also painted a couple of covers which are really cool.

Rampaging Hulk 6 cover painting by Jim Starlin, featuring Sub-Mariner

Rampaging Hulk #5 features the Hulk's on-again off-again ally, the Sub-Mariner, who never looked more regal than in this depiction by Starlin.  Ya gotta love the nasty expression on the Hulk's face as he looks upon Namor.  Unfortunately, Starlin did not draw the story inside.

Rampaging Hulk 5 ad

Bonus:  here's a Marvel advertisement for this issue that appeared in other black and white magazines!

Rampaging Hulk 7 cover painting by Jim Starlin

Starlin's third Hulk cover painting appeared on issue #7.  I like it the least of the three, perhaps because the Hulk isn't facing the viewer as in the other covers.  Nuff said.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jim Starlin and Alex Nino's Rampaging Hulk

While I've taken shots at some issues of Rampaging Hulk magazine, if there is any one issue that you must have in your collection--surely it is issue #4.

Rampaging Hulk 5 cover painting by Jim Starlin

This beautiful cover painting by Jim Starlin is your first indication that it is very special.  The Hulk, held captive on a mystical cross, while a skeleton head spews magic in the foreground.  Starlin not only did the cover, but plotted and penciled the lead story inside.  Was it inked by Al Milgrom?  Steve Leialoha?  I say thee nay, true believers!

Starlin Nino opening splash in Rampaging Hulk 4

Alex Nino was the inker for this story.  I never would have thought that Nino's inks over Starlin would work, but the combination of the two was wonderful.  You can tell that the poses and faces are essentially Starlin, but the details and the world belong to Nino.  Look at this opening splash page.  That Hulk is unmistakably a Starlin Hulk through a Nino prism.  It's like...Starlin on acid.  As if he wasn't already cosmically aware!

Jim Starlin Alex Nino collaboration in Rampaging Hulk 5

In the story, a wizard named Chen K'an transports the Hulk to his world, which has been overrun by demon hordes.  He needs the Hulk attain a mystical object of power called the Star of Catalax, but he finds the "Hulk smash" persona quite irritating.  Chen K'an attempts to merge this personality along with Banner's, and winds up with a wise guy "Mr. Big" Grey Hulk persona.  Years before the Peter David arc in Las Vegas, it's great fun as you see this Hulk battle demon hordes.

Jim Starlin Alex Nino double page splash in Rampaging Hulk 5

Starlin's layouts provided the perfect avenue for Nino to showcase his style.  Take a look at this double page spread where the Hulk and Chen K'an fight the second wave of demons.

As far as I recall, this was Alex Nino's only collaboration with a notable Marvel artist?  Check out Man-Gods From Beyond the Stars if you want more Nino.  Nuff said.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monster Monday: A Rampaging Man-Thing by Jim Starlin

We haven't had a Monster Monday in a long while here at Giant-Size Marvel, which is a tragedy, since most Mondays are truly horrific.

Jim Starlin Ernie Chan Man-Thing Hulk pinup from Rampaging Hulk 7

This black and white pinup by Jim Starlin and Ernie Chan appeared on the inside front cover of Rampaging Hulk #7.  Last week, I took Marvel to task for having Alfredo Alcala destroy Walter Simonson's work in this same magazine.  In this particular case, having a radically different inker works quite well.  That's because Chan keeps all the Starlin elements intact (the facial expressions, the poses) intact while adding his own style.  Chan did the same while inking John Buscema on Conan.

And what the heck--isn't it cool just to see Man-Thing and the Hulk chillin' in the Florida swamp?  It beats trying to knock the snot out of each other--like they did in this Berni Wrightson cover.

Jim Starlin Bob Wiacek Man-Thing splash in Rampaging Hulk 7

Rampaging Hulk #7 (1978) also featured a brand new Man-Thing story by Steve Gerber and Jim Starlin.  This was the first full length story since the Man-Thing series terminated in issue #22 (1975).  The story is classic Gerber insanity, featuring women going wild in swamp, and Man-Thing fusing their hands together when the moment of fear arrives.

Jim Starlin Bob Wiacek Man-Thing story in Rampaging Hulk 7

Jim Starlin's artwork, inked by Bob Wiacek, looked really nice in this black and white story.  You have to appreciate the final panel where Manny slowly sinks down into the swamp.  Was this the last Man-Thing story that Gerber ever wrote?  I think so.  Nuff said.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Walter Simonson's Rampaging Hulk

Walter Simonson hooked me as a fan for life after I read Manhunter in those terrific super-giant 100 page Detective Comics back in the 1970s.  I followed him wherever he went afterwards.  He did a Doctor Fate special, a few issues of a Metal Men revival, and later some Star Wars stories at Marvel.

Rampaging Hulk ad by Simonson

I was primed for Simonson to draw a major Marvel character.  Finally in 1977, I saw this ad for a new black and white magazine titled The Rampaging Hulk.  Simonson drew this fantastic pinup featuring the Hulk in action.  It was just plain cool.  The Hulk’s face really looks monstrous, a throwback to his early days, instead of the friendly jade jawed giant that was appearing in other Marvel titles.  I love Simonson’s lines that add shadow and depth to his drawings, and I really relished the opportunity to see a full Simonson story printed in black and white.

I dared to hope that Simonson would draw the Rampaging Hulk’s lead feature.  And indeed, he would, but when I bought the first issue and flipped to the splash page, it looked like this.

Rampaging Hulk 1 splash page by Simonson and Alcala

It is Simonson…inked by Alfredo Alcala.  I couldn’t fathom why the editor of this magazine (John Warner) picked Alcala as the inker.  If I had been the editor, I would have tried to snap up Terry Austin or Bob Wiacek for the job.  Had they not been available, I could think of a half dozen other inkers.  Alcala’s ink washes totally dominated Simonson’s work on this series—pretty much eradicating the artist’s original style.  You can still see elements of Simonson underneath: The Hulk’s flat Frankenstein style head, the pose of his body coming at the reader, and the spaceships flying in formation in the background.

I’ve never been a big Alcala fan anyway.  I always cringed whenever he worked on Tales of the Zombie and other Marvel magazines.

Rampaging Hulk panel by Simonson Alcala

I remember thinking this was all a mistake made to meet a rushed deadline, and that by issue 2, Marvel would find a better inker.  Nope, there was Alcala in the second issue and the third one as well.  Simonson moved on after issue 3 and Keith Pollard took over.

To be fair, we can’t know how tight Simonson’s original pencils were to begin with.  I think I recall reading somewhere that he drew layouts. I will always look back at this as a tragically missed opportunity.  Nuff said.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mike Ploog and Doug Moench bring Terror on the Planet of the Apes

Terror on the Planet of the Apes splash page from POTA 14

The highlight for the entire run of Marvel's Planet of the Apes magazine was the spectacular series, Terror on the Planet of the Apes.  Written by Doug Moench (from an initial idea by Gerry Conway) and drawn by one of my favorite artists, Mike Ploog, it was as close to a sequel to the final movie (Battle) that I would ever get.

Jason swears revenge on Apes who killed his family, POTA 1 

You can place Terror a generation after the events in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  Apes and Humans are living somewhat peacefully together, with racial tensions always simmering beneath the surface.  The Lawgiver keeps them together through his sermons and wisdom.  Jason (a human) and Alex (a chimpanzee) are best friends. 

When the Lawgiver decides to take a vacation in the Forbidden Zone, the Gorilla general Brutus throws their lives, as well as Ape City, into turmoil.  He has a band of masked Gorillas (somewhat like the Ku Klux Klan) who terrorize humans.  They beat up Alex's father (for being a human sympathizer) and murder Jason's family.  Jason swears revenge, but Alex isn't so sure.

Jason and Alex become fugitives in POTA 1

By the end of the first chapter, Alex is convinced of Brutus' conspiracy.  He helps Jason escape prison and the two are on the run for their lives.  Brutus has convinced people that Jason has murdered his wife.  Just like the TV show the Fugitive, the pair would spend the next year on the run throughout the wild world of the Apes.

Jason and Alex in POTA 4

In the Forbidden Zone, Jason and Alex rescue the Lawgiver, with Brutus' army right behind them.  The mutants in the Forbidden Zone are led by a trio of giant brains encased in glass spheres--a great gag that I've seen repeated in many other stories.

Ploog pencils Jason and Alex in POTA 6

Mike Ploog was the perfect artist to draw this series.  He excelled at drawing fantasy adventures and he was great at drawing the facial expressions on the Apes.  But I think the sheer amount of detail and the publishing schedule got to him after a while.  Ploog's artwork was reproduced in full pencils without any inks in issues 4, 6, and 8.  Terror began skipping issues as well, and it was a crapshoot as to whether the serial would be appear each month.  Terror appeared in POTA 1-4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 19, 20, 23, 26, 27, 28. 

Ploog's last chapter would appear in issue 19, where he was inked by Tom Sutton.  After that, Sutton did a few chapters, and Herb Trimpe drew the remaining ones.

Ploog pencils riverboat scene in POTA 6

Even though the reproduction was not as advanced as today--I thought Ploog's pencil art was amazing.  Perhaps because I had never seen comic art before it was inked!  But take a look at the quiet scene of this boat on a lake.  The reflection in the water, the detail on the jungle surrounding the shore.  It's sublime.

Riverboat apes meet Gypsy apes in POTA 6

Moench and Ploog created many different Ape cultures within this series.  Jason and Alex encountered Gunpowder Julius' band of riverboat Apes, a Davy Crockett inspired version of this world.  In issue 6, the riverboat Apes met a band of gypsy Apes--which included a breathtaking human gal called Malaguena.

Jason gets in trouble over Malaguena in POTA 6

Malaguena was the kind of liberated gal who could sleep with both apes and humans.  When we first meet her, she's with the Grimaldi the gypsy chimpanzee.  She becomes Jason's girlfriend after he kills Grimaldi in a knife fight.  Then she winds up with Alex!

As you can see here in this panel, Jason's ape-prejudice is always present, erupting in moments of physical violence.  You Dirty Stinking Crazy Ape!! 

End of first Terror on the Planet of the Apes storyline in POTA 11

While Terror in the Planet of the Apes appeared in the Marvel magazine until the end of the run, for me the series came to a logical conclusion in issue 11.  All the plot threads of the first storyline were neatly wrapped up.  Jason, Alexander, and the Lawgiver returned to Ape City and revealed the truth about Brutus' treachery.  The discord between humans and apes is put to rest after another Lawgiver sermon.  Brutus' last ditch attempt to murder the Lawgiver and take over Ape City is upset. 

The Lawgiver banishes Brutus from Ape City forever--and this sends Jason into a fury.  He won't settle for anything less than the death penalty.  He attacks Alex with racial slurs and violence, abandons Malaguena, and storms off in search of Brutus.  On the last panel, Alex speculates about his friendship with Jason:  "Maybe we never were friends...and can never be friends.  Maybe we were just too afraid to hate each other."

I still own many of the POTA magazines with the Ploog and Moench stories.  Here's a question for you, readers:  was Terror on the Planet of the Apes ever collected in a trade?  Nuff said.