Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

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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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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