Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

TIGRA: THE EARLY ADVENTURES

TigraPop culture at the moment remains superhero-crazed, and Balladeer’s Blog’s readers always want more articles about them. Here is a look at the early adventures of Tigra the Werewoman from the 1970s.

Before Greer Grant went on to become Tigra, she started out as the Cat, a superheroine whose escapades led to the transformation. Therefore, it will be necessary to start this blog post with the five stories featuring the Cat before she was turned into Tigra.

cat 1THE CAT Vol 1 #1 (November 1972)

Title: Beware the Claws of the Cat

Villain: Malcolm Donalbain

Synopsis: Chicago resident Greer Grant was the lab assistant for her former physics professor Dr Joanne Tumolo, who was working on an experimental method of taking women to their physical and intellectual peak. Having run out of grant money, Tumolo accepted money from eccentric investor and playboy Malcolm Donalbain.

After subjecting both Greer Grant and Donalbain’s underling Shirlee Bryant to the process, Dr Tumolo accidentally discovered that Donalbain planned to combine Joanne’s enhanced females with high-tech cat-suits which would grant them additional abilities. Through mind-controlling collars he would use his army of super-powered Cat Women to take over the United States. Dr Tumolo saw Shirlee Bryant fall to her death while testing the cat-suits, then stole one for proof and fled to tell Greer Grant what she had learned. Continue reading

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X-MEN: THE NEW TEAM’S FIRST TWENTY STORIES

With superheroes continuing to dominate pop culture right now, here’s a look at the first twenty stories of the “All New, All Different” X-Men beginning in 1975. I have a soft spot for superhero stories because reading them as a kid served as a gateway to two of my adult passions – mythology and opera.

new x-men 1GIANT-SIZE X-MEN Vol 1 #1 (May 1975)

Title: Deadly Genesis

Villain: Krakoa

NOTE: This was the very FIRST appearance of the new team of X-Men who replaced the original, blander team launched in 1963. That team’s original series had been canceled and reduced to reprints (reruns).

Synopsis: The story opened with a series of vignettes featuring Professor X traveling the world rounding up a new batch of mutants detected by his invention Cerebro. Three of them had prior history in the Marvel Universe:

*** WOLVERINE (real name unknown at the time), who had fought the Hulk and the Wendigo in Canada. Wolverine willingly joined the X-Men and angrily resigned from Canada’s Department H, which had been sending him on missions up to that point. This would have repercussions down the road.

*** BANSHEE (Sean Cassidy), a sometime foe and sometime ally of the original team of X-Men. This Irishman had also fought Captain America and the Falcon.

*** SUNFIRE (Shiro Yoshida), a Japanese mutant who had fought the original X-Men as well as Sub-Mariner, Iron Man and Captain America.

The rest of the mutants Xavier rounded up were new:

*** STORM (Ororo Munroe), from Africa, where her weather-controlling powers had made her revered as a goddess by an isolated tribe.

*** NIGHTCRAWLER (Kurt Wagner), a German circus performer whose monstrous appearance made him the target of a mutant-hating mob from which Professor X saved him.

*** COLOSSUS (Piotr Rasputin), a Russian teenager working on a Collective Farm in the Soviet Union.

*** THUNDERBIRD (John Proudstar), a Native American mutant from a reservation in the American Southwest.

Once they were all assembled at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, the professor introduced them to Cyclops (Scott Summers), the leader of the original X-Men, who briefed them. He had led the original team – Iceman, Angel, Marvel Girl, Polaris and Havok (Beast was joining the Avengers at this point) to investigate a new mutant detected by Cerebro on a Pacific Ocean island called Krakoa. The original team vanished and only Cyclops escaped in their aircraft, but with no memory of what happened there. Continue reading

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IRON FIST: THE EARLY ADVENTURES

Balladeer’s Blog’s readers always make it clear that they feel superhero blog posts make for nice, light diversions over the weekend, so here comes another one. This one takes a look at the early stories of Iron Fist from the 1970s.

iron fist aMARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 15 (May 1974)

Title: The Fury of Iron Fist

Villain: Shu Hu the One

Comment: In the 1970s “Everybody was Kung Fu fight-iiiiing” and Marvel Comics jumped onto the bandwagon with a series of martial arts characters. By this point in 1974 the company had already introduced Shang-Chi the Master of Kung Fu, the female Avenger called Mantis and the Sons of the Tiger. Now would come Iron Fist, real name Daniel Rand, later modified to Daniel Rand-Kai.

Synopsis: The origin story of Iron Fist is told through flashbacks this issue and the next. This story starts with action and THEN delves into the superhero’s origin, a formula I think works best, but I’m not a comic book expert. In the Himalayan Mountains, in the mystical city called K’un-Lun, Iron Fist is battling four opponents under the watchful eyes of K’un-Lun’s ruler Yu-Ti the August Personage of Jade and his subordinate Dragon Kings.     

NOTE: This K’un-Lun is not THE K’un-Lun from Chinese mythology but it uses the same name and many of the inhabitants go by names corresponding to Chinese gods. Yu-Ti is one of them, Lei Kung the Thunderer is another. This K’un-Lun is an enchanted city that appears on Earth only once every ten years before returning to its pocket dimension home for another ten.

Back to the story – Iron Fist defeats his four opponents and, having survived this Challenge of the Many, now asks Yu-Ti for permission to face the Challenge of the One (Shu Hu). Yu-Ti wants Iron Fist to be sure that is what he desires, so he tells him to contemplate the path that has led him to this Day of Days. Continue reading

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FIRST TWENTY DEFENDERS STORIES FROM THE 1970s

To me there’s nothing like the ORIGINAL historical context in which fictional heroes were introduced, so I’ve examined 1930s, 1940s and 1960s superhero characters, often reviewing their first 20 stories. Here are the first 20 Defenders stories from the 1970s.

Marvel Feature 1MARVEL FEATURE Vol 1 #1 (December 1971)

Title: The Day of the Defenders

Villain: The Omegatron

Defenders Roster: Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange, MD), the Hulk (Bruce Banner, PhD) and the Sub-Mariner (Prince Namor McKenzie)

Comment: The Defenders were originally far different from the mere “street level” heroics that fans of Marvel Television adaptations associate with the team’s name. In 1971 Marvel had just one Avengers team in addition to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The Defenders often fought to save the entire world or even the entire universe or multiverse.

Doctor Strange and the Hulk had been around since the 1960s. The Sub-Mariner was introduced in 1939 (so BEFORE Aquaman), back when Marvel Comics was called Timely Comics. 

Synopsis: The sorcerer Yandroth, an old one-off foe of Dr Strange, has been spending his years since his defeat at Strange’s hands mastering science as thoroughly as he had previously mastered sorcery. He is on his death bed after having devised a scheme to ensure that the world will be destroyed shortly after he dies.

With typical villain bluster, Yandroth has Dr Strange summoned to his death bed and taunts him about his plans and tells him that in five hours the entire Earth will be destroyed by his creation the Omegatron unleashing every nuclear and biological weapon in the world. Before passing away, the villain reveals that he used BOTH sorcery AND science to create the Omegatron, ensuring that it cannot be defeated by JUST sorcery or JUST science. It will require the proper combination of the two.

Marvel feature 1 splash pageKnowing he has no chance of stopping this menace with his magic alone, Dr Strange mystically summons the Sub-Mariner, Monarch of Atlantis, to his side and explains the situation. Since even Namor’s realm of Atlantis will be destroyed by the Omegatron he allies himself with Stephen.

The Sub-Mariner suggests that Dr Strange also enlist the immensely powerful Silver Surfer to fight beside them. The sorcerer conjures up an image of what the Surfer is up to at that very moment. He and Sub-Mariner see that the Silver Surfer is, for the umpteenth time, trying to penetrate Galactus’ barrier which keeps him banished on Earth. Once again the Surfer fails and plummets back to Earth.

Since the Silver Surfer will need hours to recover from his crash landing back on our planet, Doc and Namor instead summon the Hulk to help them. Our heroes track down the Omegatron to an abandoned lighthouse in the northeastern United States. Continue reading

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DAREDEVIL: THE FIRST TWENTY STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Here’s a look at the first twenty Daredevil stories from the 1960s. These days Daredevil is mostly known for the dark and brooding element that the legendary writer and artist Frank Miller brought to the character, along with that whole Ninja element of DD’s background. 

dd 1DAREDEVIL Vol 1 #1 (April 1964)

Title: The Origin of Daredevil

Villain: The Fixer

Synopsis: At Fogwell’s Gym, a red and yellow costumed figure calling himself Daredevil barges in on the thugs and underlings of the Fixer (Roscoe Sweeney), the criminal behind the fixing of boxing matches at various levels. The hoods don’t want to tell Daredevil where the Fixer is and a huge fight breaks out. Our hero defeats the thugs with his agility, his red billy-club and – as we will learn shortly – his radar senses.

Daredevil has a flashback to his origin: he is really Matt Murdock whose father Battling Jack Murdock was a struggling boxer. To earn enough money to raise his son and send him to college, Battling Jack learned to play the game and throw fights when ordered to by the Fixer. Jack forbade his son to ever fight, which made Matt the object of ridicule by his peers so the younger Murdock trained himself in the martial arts (later retconned to being trained by Ninjas).

One day in his teens Matt heroically shoved a blind man from in front of a crashing toxic waste truck, saving his life but letting himself get hit by that vehicle. The nuclear waste and toxic chemicals in the truck blinded Matt Murdock but also gave him radar senses that more than compensated for the loss of his vision.

NOTE: In a tongue-in-cheek way, the creators of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles always implied that some of the toxic materials from that same truck poured into the sewer, mutating four turtles and a rat. Though they weren’t part of the Marvel Comics universe that Ninja Turtles joke went further still with the way that the evil group the Foot, fought by the TMNT, was an obvious take on the Hand, an evil group opposed by Daredevil.  Continue reading

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FIRST 20 CAPTAIN AMERICA STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Regular readers have let me know they are going through Marvel withdrawal right now because WandaVision just isn’t giving them enough of a fix. Last year I looked at Captain America’s first 20 stories from the 1940s. Now here’s a look at his first 20 solo stories from the 1960s.

tales of suspense 59TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #59 (November 1964)

Title: Captain America

Villain: Bull

Comment: After being thawed out from his suspended animation in Avengers #4, Captain America had been serving as a member of the team while trying to adjust to the way he had lost twenty years preserved in ice. Now he was getting his first Silver Age solo stories. Jack Kirby was drawing Cap’s stories, just as he had during the 1940s when he co-created the character. 

Synopsis: Alone on monitor duty at Avengers Mansion one night, Captain America was helping to pass the time by looking through old World War Two scrapbooks and memorabilia. He still missed his late partner Bucky. (NOTE: It was not until decades later that Marvel retconned events so that Bucky had survived as the Winter Soldier.)

Elsewhere in New York City, a gangster called Bull and his dozen or so men have learned that it’s Cap’s turn on monitor duty. With the other Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, the Wasp and Giant-Man) elsewhere, Bull and his men decide it’s their best chance to mount a raid on Avengers Mansion and make off with some of the Top Secret tech and national defense secrets in the place. Continue reading

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IRON MAN VS THE BLACK KNIGHT

robert downey jr iron manHere at Balladeer’s Blog I like to listen to you readers. Many of you have enjoyed my takes on the earliest adventures of Marvel Comics characters like the Avengers, X-Men, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. The MOST popular so far was my look at the first 20 Iron Man stories in the 1960s, so here is a bonus I.M. blog post picking up where that original one left off.

tales of suspense 59TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #59 (November 1964)

Title: The Black Knight

Villain: The Black Knight (Nathan Garrett)   

Comment: This issue of Tales of Suspense allows for a lot of side notes about the evolution of Marvel Comics’ particular iteration of the Black Knight figure AND the nature of the Marvel vs DC competition of the time. 

           The reason that Marvel Comics began pairing up some of its heroes in one particular comic book was because of a new agreement with their rivals at DC. Each had agreed, “arms limitation”-style, to limit the number of titles they published per month for a time. Instead of having two separate comic books for Iron Man and Captain America, Tales of Suspense featured both heroes in individual adventures.

            Similarly, instead of having separate comic books for the Hulk, Giant-Man & the Wasp and the Sub-Mariner, they shared Tales to Astonish in different combinations for a time. Strange Tales was likewise shared by Dr Strange, Nick Fury and the Johnny Storm Human Torch.

All of this stayed within the title-limitation arrangement made with DC while still allowing many of Marvel’s most popular characters to remain on newsstands along with Spider-Man, Thor, the Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

iron man vs black knightSynopsis: The Black Knight (Nathan Garrett), usually a supervillain opponent of Giant-Man & the Wasp, was in prison following the recent clash between the Avengers and Baron Zemo’s original Masters of Evil, of which he was a member. The Knight’s winged horse Elendil at last located its master’s cell window, allowing him to retrieve some chemicals from its saddle-bag. With those chemicals the Black Knight dissolved the bars of his cell, mounted Elendil and flew off, wanting revenge. Continue reading

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SON OF SATAN: MOST HALLOWEENISH COVERS

masc graveyard smallerBalladeer’s Blog’s Month-long celebration of Halloween nears its end for 2020 as I take a look at the most seasonal covers of the 1970s Marvel Comics series Son of Satan. The latest Marvel television show, Helstrom, is a very watered-down and weak version of their horror character Daimon Hellstrom, the son of Satan and a mortal woman. (They didn’t even use both “L’s” in the name Hellstrom for the series title, as if h-e-l-l is too shocking for public use.)

Marvel later renamed Daimon from Son of Satan to the catchier “Hellstorm” – a play on his last name. From what I’ve read the tv show doesn’t even commit to him being Satan’s son. Wimps. He FIGHTS Satan, for crying out loud, so where’s the harm!

Son of satan 1MARVEL SPOTLIGHT Vol 1 #12 (October 1973)

Title: The Son of Satan

Villain: Satan

Comment: Daimon Hellstrom and his half-sister Satana (click HERE) were both born of human mothers but with Satan as their father. Satana followed their father’s evil path but Daimon rebelled, fighting against their father and his minions and even trying to become a priest at one time.

In his secret identity Daimon was a professor of parapsychology and religion plus he served as an exorcist. When he held up both hands with three fingers up on each hand (the sign of the trident) he mystically transformed into his Son of Satan regalia complete with a pitchfork.

That pitchfork was made of nether-metal and through it the Son of Satan generated Hellfire (like Ghost Rider wielded) and used it to fly (like Hot Stuff – rimshot). This foe of demonic forces also had an infernal chariot pulled through the sky by three Satanic horses named Amon, Hecate and Set. Continue reading

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GHOST RIDER: THE MOST HALLOWEENISH COVERS

Halloween Month hurls toward its conclusion with another seasonal post. The Marvel Comics juggernaut is THE power in pop culture these days so here is another look at one of their horror characters from their 1970s heyday.

spotlight 5MARVEL SPOTLIGHT Vol 1 #5 (August 1972)

Title: Ghost Rider

Villain: Satan

Comment: Ah, the sweet simplicity of the original Ghost Rider stories! Daredevil biker Johnny Blaze makes a deal with the devil: Johnny’s soul in exchange for Satan curing the cancer in the body of Blaze’s mentor “Crash” Simpson.

We all know how deals with the devil go, and Satan cures Simpson’s cancer but the aging daredevil motorcyclist dies in an accident during his next show. When Satan comes to claim Johnny’s soul, Blaze’s true love Roxanne Simpson (Crash’s daughter) interferes and negates the infernal contract.

The stymied devil can’t take Johnny to Hell but can inflict a kind of “Hell in nightly installments” on him by cursing him to become a monstrous fiery-skulled figure every night from then on.

NOTE: Convoluted additions about soul-reaping or about Johnny’s Ghost Rider form really being a specific demon named Zarathos, or past Ghost Riders did not come along til years later. The first Ghost Rider movie should have kept it simple like this and started adding the complications beginning with the second film. Continue reading

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EARLY BLADE THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1973-1983)

Blade black & whiteAs Halloween Month continues here’s a look at the very early years of  the Marvel Comics horror character Blade the Vampire Slayer, who debuted in 1973. In retrospect I prefer the original “look” for this dynamic figure: the long coat, the bandolier of six teakwood knives and the green-hued “photo-optic visor” aka goggles aka biker shades. I’ve never liked swords for vampire slaying so the wooden knives used by Blade back then appeal to me more.

We’ll skip over the stories about Eric Dickersonalleged legal fights with the original creator of Blade, fights that eventually necessitated the changes in Blade’s look and trademark weaponry. Suffice it to say that the 1970s Blade strikes me as an “Indiana Jones of horror” with a vintage Pulp Magazine vibe. And football player Eric Dickerson would have made a perfect cinematic Blade if a movie had been done in the early 1980s, right after Raiders of the Lost Ark. With Pam Grier as Safron Caulder and Oliver Reed as Deacon Frost.

Drac 10TOMB OF DRACULA Vol 1 #10 (July 1973)

Title: His Name Is … Blade

Comment: The very first appearance of the original Blade came in the 10th issue of Tomb of Dracula, along with Ghost Rider one of Marvel’s longest lasting horror comics of the 1970s. The title villain/ antihero was THE Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel.

Blade made his badass debut by saving innocent British victims from three vampires who served Dracula. After killing the trio, Blade trailed Drac himself to a luxury liner loaded with the wealthy and the powerful. The vampire king planned to use the partying passengers as a blood supply AND as a cadre of Renfields to further his plans.

Eric Dickerson 2Our vampire slayer arrived in time to save all but a few of the “beautiful people” from Dracula.

After a battle royal between Blade and Drac, the Count escaped while Blade evacuated the surviving passengers to save them from explosives planted on the ship by one of Dracula’s thralls.    Continue reading

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