Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

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

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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THE MOST HALLOWEENISH WEREWOLF BY NIGHT COVERS

Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween continues with this look at pop culture mammoth Marvel Comics’ long(ish) running horror series Werewolf by Night.

Werewolf 1WEREWOLF BY NIGHT Vol 1 #1 (September 1972)

Title: Eye of the Beholder

Villains: Marlene Blackgar, whose horrible gaze turns people to stone, and her monstrous creation Strug

Comment: After a few issue tryout in Marvel Spotlight, 18 year old Jack Russell (really Russoff), the titular character, got his own title. He was the son of a European nobleman and the latest inheritor of the family’s curse of lycanthropy. A curse he sought a cure for.

His adventures were often like a comic book version of Paul Naschy’s Waldemar Daninsky werewolf movies from Spain. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY X-MEN STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Here’s another blog post for this superhero-hungry world:

Xmen 1THE X-MEN Vol 1 #1 (September 1963)

Title: X-Men

Villain: Magneto 

Synopsis: In Upstate New York, at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, a covert institution for mutants, Professor X (Charles Xavier, PhD) gives his five students a classical education in addition to secretly training them on the use of their mutant powers.

Magneto, a powerful mutant villain, uses his massive magnetic powers to seize Cape Citadel military base in the U.S. He issues public threats to Homo Sapiens about the growing numbers of mutants, or Homo Superior, being born each year.

Assuming normal humans will hound them to extinction out of fear, he is pre-emptively declaring war on humanity in the name of mutant kind, with the seizure of Cape Citadel the opening action of that war.

NOTE: Despite later retcons to Magneto’s personality, in these early appearances his thoughts make it clear he is just using his claims of “protecting” mutants as the excuse to realize his ambition to take over the world.

Professor X, saddened that humanity’s First Contact with the mutants among them is a hostile encounter, sends his X-Men to drive Magneto out of Cape Citadel. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY HULK STORIES FROM THE 1960s

I could never do enough superhero posts to keep up with the demand! Here is another one combining my Top Twenty for 2020 theme – the first 20 Incredible Hulk stories from the 1960s.

Hulk 1THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #1 (May 1962)

Title: The Hulk

Villain: The Gargoyle (Yuri Topolov)

Synopsis: In the desert far outside Desert Base in the American Southwest, Dr Bruce Banner’s creation – the first Gamma Radiation Bomb – is being tested. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross keeps leaning on Bruce to hurry with his preparations while his daughter, Bruce’s girlfriend Betty Ross, tries to calm him down. 

mascot sword and gun picShortly before the bomb can be set off, Banner sees through his binoculars that a teenager (Rick Jones) has driven into the dangerous area on a dare. He tells his assistant Igor Drenkov to halt the countdown but Drenkov, a Soviet Agent, spitefully decides not to. Bruce gets Rick Jones to a bunker just in time but is caught in the Gamma Bomb’s explosion himself.

Rick gets Banner back to Desert Base where they pretend Bruce also got to the bunker in time since Bruce doesn’t trust others to study the Gamma Radiation’s effect on him. That night Dr Banner transforms into a huge, hate-filled gray (yes, gray) monster. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY THOR STORIES FROM THE 1960s

The world cannot get enough superhero articles. Readers demanded another one so here is a look at the first 20 stories of the Marvel Comics version of Thor.

Thor 1JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY Vol 1 #83 (August 1962)

Title: Thor The Mighty and the Stone Men

Villains: Kronans (Stone Men)

Synopsis: Brilliant and famous doctor and surgeon, Donald Blake MD, has traveled to Norway on vacation. While he is there an alien race of Stone Men called the Kronans, using Saturn as a staging post, invade the Earth.

The lame (as in limping with a cane) Doctor Blake hides in a nearby cave where he finds a hidden chamber containing an alternate walking stick. An inscription on the cavern wall indicates that the stick can bestow the power of the Norse thunder god Thor.

When Blake fails to move rocks which have fallen across the cave entrance by using the walking stick as a lever, he lashes out in frustration, striking the bottom of the stick against the rocks. This triggers his transformation into Thor while the enchanted walking stick becomes Thor’s legendary hammer Mjolnir.

NOTE: As Thor’s adventures went along, Marvel Comics ultimately decided that Donald Blake really WAS the ancient Norse god Thor, but that his father Odin had wiped his memory and forced him to live as the lame Donald Blake to teach the cocky god humility. The lesson apparently learned, we’re told Odin made Blake take this Norway vacation so he could find the cane/ Mjolnir and return to being Thor in order to save Earth from the Stone Men. 

Back to the story, as Thor, our hero easily removed all the rocks blocking the cave entrance and watched as Earth fighter jets were driven off by the Kronan spaceships, whose force fields protected them from all the Earthlings’ missiles and bombs. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY IRON MAN STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Robert Downey Jr as Iron ManBalladeer’s Blog continues its Top Twenty Lists for 2020 while simultaneously providing another item for this superhero-hungry world. It’s the first 20 Iron Man stories, beginning in 1963.

Iron Man 1TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #39 (March 1963)

Title: Iron Man Is Born

Villains: Wong Chu and his Red Guerillas

Synopsis: Tony Stark is living the dream. He’s a multi-millionaire, women consider him very handsome and he has all the inventive genius of a new Thomas Edison but without the litigiousness. He has multiplied the fortune he inherited from his parents many times over through the value of his tech and weapons creations instead of through the ruthless big business savvy shown by his late father.

After Tony demonstrates his latest inventions for the Defense Department to an audience of Generals he is flown to Vietnam to watch his devices in action in the field. This will help him refine them for the front-line troops.

While accompanying a squad of soldiers through the jungle, Stark accidentally triggers a Viet Cong booby trap and the subsequent explosion kills his soldier escorts. Tony himself is left with a piece of shrapnel lodged dangerously near his heart and inching closer by the day.

Wong Chu, the North Vietnamese Warlord, is holding the injured millionaire captive in the village he rules with an iron fist. Wong Chu knows that Tony Stark has only days to live but lies to him and tells him he will set him free if he devises a high-tech weapon for him and his VC forces. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY AVENGERS STORIES FROM THE 1960s

As always, Balladeer’s Blog listens to you readers! You wanted a look at the first twenty Avengers stories similar to my recent look at the first twenty Captain America stories from the 1940s, so here we go:

Avengers 1THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #1 (September 1963)

Title: The Coming of the Avengers

Villain: Loki

Synopsis: Loki sits imprisoned on the Isle of Silence in Asgard. He cannot leave but is determined to get revenge on his archenemy Thor. Sending his astral body to Earth/ Midgard he uses an illusion spell to trick the Hulk into seeming to destroy a railroad line.  

           Rick Jones, just an ordinary teenager back then, is still the Hulk’s friend and wants to round up superheroes to corral the Hulk before the army moves in and possibly kills the green-skinned brute. He and his fellow Ham Radio Operators (LMAO), called the Teen Brigade, send out a radio summons.

           Loki arranges for Thor’s secret identity of Dr Donald Blake to hear the message, but the radio waves are also picked up by Tony Stark/ Iron Man (in his original clunky armor) as well as Ant-Man (Hank Pym, PhD) and his crime-fighting partner the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne).

           While Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp battle the Hulk, Thor suspects Loki’s involvement when an illusory image of the Hulk is used to lure him to the site of the ongoing fight. Thor flies to Asgard and tries to reach the Isle of Silence but must overcome Rock Trolls, Frost Giants and Silent Ones set upon him by Loki. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY CAPTAIN AMERICA STORIES IN THE 1940s

Balladeer’s Blog’s readers always remind me that they can’t get enough superhero articles, so here we go again. With the Fourth of July Holiday coming up, I figured I’d look at the earliest stories of the Timely Comics (later called Marvel Comics) red, white & blue hero Captain America.

Captain America 1CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS Vol 1 #1 (March 1941)

Story 1: Meet Captain America

Villains: Assorted Nazi saboteurs

Synopsis: Voluntary guinea pig Steve Rogers is subjected to the Top Secret Super-Soldier Treatment and becomes Captain America. With his trusty shield, Cap defeats Nazi saboteurs up and down the East Coast, becoming a media sensation. At Camp Lehigh, army mascot James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes walks in on Private Steve Rogers switching from his uniform to his Captain America costume. Cap agrees to risk the teen’s life by making him his costumed sidekick.

Captain America earlyStory 2: Case Number 2

Villains: Sando and Omar, apparent mutants

Synopsis: Steve Rogers and J.B. Barnes are stationed now at Fort Bix. With the help of FBI Agent Betsy Ross (yes, Betsy Ross) they become involved in the case of stage psychics Sando and Omar. Sando uses psychic powers to cause the mentally challenged Omar to “see” (really produce) visions in a crystal ball depicting disasters occurring, the first night at Fort Bix, the next night at a nearby bridge.

           The disasters really occur, and Captain America, Bucky and Betsy eventually expose Sando as Nazi Agent Sando Von Krantz, a probable mutant who used his psychic powers to fill his stooge Omar’s mind with the disasters shown in the crystal ball. Somehow Omar’s powers caused those disasters to come true. (Hey, it’s a comic book.) Sando and Omar are captured, and Betsy pleads for mercy for the simple-minded Omar.

Story 3: The Soldiers’ Soup Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN: CHAPTER LINKS

Reader Daniel Kibblesmith reminded Balladeer’s Blog that I had not followed up my reviews and revisions of the original Killraven stories (1973-1976) at Marvel Comics with my usual collection of links in one handy blog post. Here we go:

Killraven 1WAR OF THE WORLDS – Jonathan Raven, rechristened Killraven in the gladiatorial circuit of Earth’s alien conquerors of the “future,” leads a group of Freemen in an attempt to retake the planet. CLICK HERE   

THE SIRENS OF SEVENTH AVENUE – After learning the truth about Earth’s alien conquerors AND about his possession of “The Power” (a pre-Star Wars variation of the Force), Killraven leads his Freemen against genetically modified women called Sirens as well as against assorted other post-apocalyptic threats. CLICK HERE

Killraven WarlordTHE WARLORD STRIKES – On the run after the destruction of their Staten Island rebel colony, Killraven and his Freemen run afoul of the Warlord, a human quisling who has wanted revenge against the rebel leader ever since he escaped from the gladiatorial pens. CLICK HERE 

THE MUTANT SLAYERS – The Freemen are joined by scientist Carmilla Frost and her monstrous creation Grok as they battle the Warlord and an assortment of mutated Earth creatures and deadly beasts from the aliens’ home planet. CLICK HERE  Continue reading

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