Sunday, January 31, 2010

Silver Surfer Sunday: Marshall Rogers Marvel Age Cover

Marvel Age 52 1987 Silver Surfer cover by Marshall Rogers

Marshall Rogers created this 1987 cover for Marvel Age 52, promoting the re-launch of the new series he did along with Steve Englehart.  I am sure the Jack Kirby purists will object…but I still like it!  Nuff said!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Solomon Kane by Berni Wrightson

This Solomon Kane pinup, by Berni Wrightson, appeared in Kull and the Barbarians #2 in 1975.

Berni Wrightson Solomon Kane pinup from Kull and the Barbarians 2, 1975

As usual, Wrightson works wonders with Kane fighting a monster in the shadows on a moonlit night.  Too bad we never got to see Wrightson draw a full length Robert E Howard story! 

One thing I always think about when looking at Wrightson and Barry Smith.  In addition to everything else, they are great at drawing natural scenery, such as grass, weeds, plants, and trees.  Nuff said!

Update: Comments from my previous Movable Type blog...


In this case Berni doesn't need to draw an entire sequential story. This one piece of art alone does what an entire film will soon fail to do, and that's capturing the spirit of Robert E. Howard' character and the doom filled world that this lone adventurer Puritan has taken on as his responsibility and service to God.
Perhaps you are right! Wrightson communicated more in single page illustrations than anyone.

Red Sonja Pinup by Howard Chaykin

This Red Sonja pinup, by Howard Chaykin, appeared in Kull and the Barbarians #3 in 1975.

Howard Chaykin Red Sonja pinup from Kull and the Barbarians 3, 1975

Chaykin drew a number of Sonja stories for Marvel, including her origin story.  I always thought there was something great about Chaykin's style applied to swords and sorcery.  Nuff Said!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Groovy Greeting From Stan Lee at the 1975 Marvel Convention

When you think of Stan Lee (and I know you do everyday), what image do you see?  Probably the old geezer hamming it up in brief cameos from all the Marvel movies.

A Groovy Greeting from Stan Lee to Marvel Con 1975

Here’s Stan circa 1975, from a photo taken for the first ever Mighty Marvel Comic Convention in NYC.  Stan’s really mad mod hip, with the black shirt open at the chest, the Sebring hair-do, and gold chain on his right wrist.  He would have been basking the after-glow of “Origins of Marvel Comics” which had been published a few years earlier, and gave him exposure to many media outlets.

I can smell Old Spice aftershave just by looking at this picture.  Nuff Said!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Neal Adams Classic Defenders Cover: Original and Re-Colored

In 1972, the Defenders appeared in Marvel Feature #1, with this dynamic cover by Neal Adams.

Neal Adams Marvel Feature 1 1972 cover, featuring the first appearance of the Defenders

It’s a great cover.  Each hero has a dynamic pose.  And you are not sure if these guys are here to save the world or destroy it!

In a recent Doctor Strange Barry Smith article, I came across a Marvel Milestones reprint that also had this version of Neal Adams’ cover, sans logo and with new coloring.

Neal Adams Marvel Feature 1 1971 cover re-colored

The colorist went for more muted tones here, rather than the bright colors on the original.  Doc’s left hand is obscured by the glow of the spell he is casting.  This cover was probably used on an Essentials reprint.  It’s an interesting experiment—but I can’t help think the original version is still superior.

The Defenders are one of my favorite super-hero teams of all time.  I can’t understand why modern Marvel can’t get the formula of Doc Strange + Hulk (smash) + Sub-Mariner to work.  Nuff Said!

Update: Comments from my old MT blog...


I agree that the color on the original was better, but that's almost certainly our Bronze Age bias at play. Color palates were much more limited back then. There's a sample palate from the period in the DC Comics Guide to Coloring and Lettering, and it's completely made up of different 25 percent combinations of CMYK. Certainly more limited, but, damn, if it doesn't look more like comics to me!
This is one of my favorite Marvel covers by my all time favorite comic book artist as well as my favorite Marvel superhero team! Thanks for posting this! Hopefully soon we'll see some of Neal's Avengers stuff!
I agree, I am very biased towards the old material. Yet strangely proud of it! Thanks for all your comments and tweets, Andrew!
I do believe there are ways to make the classic lineup of the Defenders work. I think Busiek tried to recreate the zaniness of the Gerber era in the 90s Defenders series, and failed. Of course, Erik Larsen's artwork didn't help matters. I think a straightforward approach would be better.
I agree about the covers. I think the artist went a bit too dark.
By the way, I'm a first time poster on this blog. Just discovered it yesterday, and I love it! I saw some panel art from G.S. Defenders #2 with art by the late great Gil Kane and Klaus Janson. I dont buy back issues these days, but I'm going to make an exception and track down that issues.
Keep up the good work.
Thank you for the kind words!
With the Hobbit movies somewhat on hold, Marvel is gunning for Guillermo del Toro to direct and Neil Gaiman to write Dr. Strange [link removed]
Can a Doctor Strange-centric "Defenders" movie that fits into what Marvel is now calling the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” finally be in the works?...
SHIELD pulls together a paranormal special ops team after the Military/SHIELD/NASA made contact with a "Beyonder" (or Celestial, some sort of "magical" trans-dimensional entity, perhaps an Asgardian?) SHIELD realizes it doesn't have the capabilities to ascertain if this “thing” is a threat or not. Thus sets the premise for the Defenders movie, where the use of occult, fringe science, brains, and brawn are employed to defeat a multi-dimensional and or “secret invasion” cosmic threat to save the day in such a way that Avengers cannot.
The team that SHIELD assembles to defend us from such an invader will be a group of eccentric scientist/academia types culled to form the "Defenders", the oddball counterpoint to the distinguished Avengers team. Project "Defenders" will be the “Twilight Zone” of the new Marvel movie franchises; they want it to be less of an action movie and have more of a creepy thriller type of vibe to it. The Defender operatives will consist of group leader - the brilliant Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange former renowned neurosurgeon turned occultist scholar and “metaphysicist” (character to be loosely based around Aleister Crowley/Terence McKenna eccentric by way of Robert Langdon), Namor McKenzie (Sub-Mariner, the superhuman Jacques-Yves Cousteau by way of Rudolf Steiner, believes he’s the literal Prince of Atlantis) , Dr. Robert Bruce Banner (Hulk, brilliant “omnidisciplinary” scientist, the world’s greatest expert on gamma radiation… need we say more?), Dr. Henry "Hank" Pym (Ant-Man, MIT professor renowned quantum physicist), and his partner Janet Van Dyne(Wasp, one-time student to Pym now associate, extremely bright but introverted Lady Gaga “individualist” type). Themes incorporated into Defenders movie include motifs from the bestselling magical/occult/secret society Dan Brown books, along with themes from the more recent Marvel series involving Secret [link removed] storylines (specifically the newer S.H.I.E.L.D. 2010 comic series). They'll be looking for lean lesser-known actors to play non-super hero type characters, and there are ruminations that Strange may be pushed forward to play a crucial role as catalyst to merge the magical other-dimensional realms like Asgard into the more "realistic" Iron Man universe.
Questions remain about the timeline and release of the Doctor Strange character into the big screen. Will we see Doctor Strange in a smallish part for the upcoming Avengers movie helping to usher in the “magical” component onto the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Or will Strange remain left out of the Avengers universe altogether for now, and another plot device or character be used to infuse the “magical elements” instead of him?... They are determined to bring on Dr. Strange movie post Ant-Man, the question remains will Strange remain side-lined for now? Some at Marvel are extremely hush-hush as plot points, characters as well as want-lists that are still being hashed-out for upcoming films, others think it’s good to gauge public opinion about what properties the public truly cares for and how they can be incorporated to the larger Marvel Movie-verse whilst staying true to the premise of the characters. Some of us like me see the potential and are really pushing for a Doctor Strange-centric Defenders movie but more importantly having Strange play a pivotal if not smallish role in the upcoming Avengers movie.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Tribute To Artie Simek, Master Letterer of the Marvel Silver Age

Comic fans usually revere writers and artists and inkers (despite Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy).  The most overlooked creators are often the letterers, especially the ones from the golden/silver/bronze ages.  My favorite letterer whose style I could easily identify as a kid was Artie Simek.

Artie Simek 1975 tribute

Letters were painstakingly hand-drawn in those days.  I am sure if you asked a non-fan, they thought a machine put the letters in the comics.  Artie Simek spent his entire professional life perfecting this craft at Marvel and DC Comics.

Artie Simek lettering on Fantastic Four 116, 1971

Artie Simek became exclusive to Marvel during their 1960s rebirth.  Many of the early Fantastic Four comics were lettered by Artie.  Why do I like his lettering style so much?  Number one, the letters are big, clear, and extremely easy to read.  There’s a style to his letters that gets specially accented in the captions and credits.  I love the way he drew those bold characters.

Artie Simek lettering on Defenders 3 splash

On this Defenders splash page, you can see that Artie designed Giant-Sized logos for the title of the story, slanted against the tornado.  There’s a TS Eliot quote that Steve Englehart threw in there, giving Artie an opportunity to do some fancy calligraphy.

Artie Simek lettering Defenders panel

Nutty little details, like the “Y” peeking out of the top rim of the panel, just tickle me.  Simek probably lettered all of Marvel’s major titles during the 1960s and 1970s: Fantastic Four, Avengers, Defenders, X-Men, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, I also liked Sam Rosen, John Costanza, Tom Orzechowski, Gaspar Saladino and Todd Klein.

I always looked forward to seeing the name “Artie Simek” in the credits.  Giving letterers a credit was unheard of before Stan Lee started doing it in Marvel Comics.  Way to go Stan—and way to go, Artie!  Nuff Said!

Link:  Artie Simek Wikipedia page.

Update: Comments from my previous MovableType blog:

Letterers are great. They accompany the artwork with their beautiful writing, thus making the panels look better. One thing that I hate in comics are those very thin and artsy letters that some issues have. Very hard to read if you don't go very close. Your blog is an inspiration for me. Keep up the fantastic job!
Great topic for a post. Never really paid much attention to Simek's lettering, but had passed away before I came into my comic-collecting prime. The first letterers who were on my radar as a Bronze Age reader were Tom Orzechowski on X-Men and John Workman on Thor. (I came to love Workman even more as a writer and artist, though.) My all-time favorite would have to be Dave Sim, for his amazing work on Cerebus.
What kind words for an unsung hero, R.G. I appreciate the sincerity of all your brief columns; they really do capture the delight and enthusiasm of the discovery of comics, each and every time, anew.
People who appreciate little details also go out of their way to observe them in their love for others, I find.
Very enjoyable examples, too. The Defenders have given me great delight, and I still have the Englehart (who I love!) issues ahead of me to read, as they came out before I did! LOL
Hope you enjoy my Defenders story, too; they helped me work out details of my novel, adapted for their participation, as a learning experiment/ call back to a quirky joy of my childhood (of course, it'll be adapted BACK, LOL!).
Richard, thanks for this excellent memorial. I didn't start paying attention to lettering until having to teach a traditional ink-on-paper class for making comics. Turns out Artie Simek was my favorite letterer of the silver age. To this day, I still try to "box up" my word balloons and mimic his letter forms (this was a MUCH easier task working 12" x 18"). As a kid I never knew the letterers, but felt Marvel's lettering took a turn for the worse when he died (until Orz, Workman and Costanza took over).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Monster Mondays: Werewolf by Night meets Morbius on a Gil Kane Cover

As a big fan of the Marvel Monsters, I couldn't wait to see them meet each other.  In particular, I wanted Morbius to meet Werewolf By Night.

Giant-Size Werewolf 3 cover by Gil Kane featuring Morbius, 1975

Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #3, published in 1975, featured this titanic event.  Would you believe this Gil Kane cover was the single best thing about this comic?  The interior artwork by Virgil Redondo is so horrible, I can't even bear to crop any scans and show you here.  It's like the artwork for a drab 1950s romance comic (not a Johnny Romita romance book--that would be cool) that some idiot thought was appropriate for a horror story.

Of all the Giant-Size books, the Werewolf drew the short end of the stick on artists.  What a shame--especially after being drawn by Ploog, Kane, and Sutton in the regular monthly series.  Nuff said.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Strange Saturday: Barry Smith Draws Doc Strange Spinning Out of Control

Every once in a while, I wake up in the morning and a classic comic book pops in my head.  Most often on Saturdays, it’s a Doctor Strange story.  Today my mind travelled back to 1972, Marvel Premiere #3: Barry Smith and Stan Lee on the good Doctor Strange.

Barry Smith Doctor Strange splash from Marvel Premiere 3, 1972

As you can tell by the terrific splash page, Smith plotted the full story with Stan providing the words and captions.  What we like to call Marvel Style!  Except I always think that classic Marvel style was when Stan at least gave a page of notes or at least a conversation with the artist.  You have to admire how well it worked at the time.  It was only possible due to the fact that Kirby, Romita, Buscema, Colan, Smith, etc., were all great storytellers.  I can’t possibly imagine any of Marvel’s current creators working this way.

Barry Smith walks Dr Strange through the rain, Marvel Premiere 3, 1972

Barry Smith knocked himself out on the artwork for this story.  Look at this panel where Doc is walking through the streets of New York City, as the rain starts to fall.  He’s brooding on this and that.  Who could capture this feeling, or draw those raindrops, as well as Smith could?

Barry Smith draws Dr Strange losing his mind, Marvel Premiere 3, 1972

This is the other panel that always stuck in my mind—the one where Doc smashes open his window and discovers that the world outside has changed.  He’s trapped in his astral form while his body remains in a coma.  It’s unreal, like a dream.  Gee, which classic villain could cause this situation?  Nightmare, of course.

This comic has been reprinted a few times.  The scans you see here were taken from a Marvel Milestones reprint.  Nuff said!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

King Kull, Red Sonja, Solomon Kane by Neal Adams

Neal Adams did great work on Savage Tales covers featuring Conan, but did you know about this piece featuring Robert E. Howard's other heroes?  It was published in a Marvel black and white magazine called Kull and the Barbarians (issue #1, 1975).

King Kull, Red Sonja by Neal Adams from Kull and the Barbarians 1975

King Kull and Red Sonja.  Kull's tiger totem rages in the background, while Sonja looks rather shyly toward the viewer.  It was an interesting choice to depict Sonja this way rather than baring her sword and looking feisty.

Bran Mak Morn and Solomon Kane by Neal Adams from Kull and the Barbarians 1975

The Roman era Bran Mak Morn and the puritanical Solomon Kane.  Adams and his Crusty Bunkers crew also inked a couple of Kane stories.  By now you can tell these two images are connected together, with the fallen tree connecting all these characters together.

Neal Adams did a great job here.  Every time I look at these Robert E Howard characters, I also think that Roy Thomas is the man responsible for their popularity.  I can't believe there is a Solomon Kane movie on the horizon in 2010.  Nuff said!