Marvel Tales #54, 1974 “The Web Closes!”

With all due respect to Steve Ditko, I enjoy the Romita era of Spider-Man better. Not only for the artistic difference (even though this issue is penciled by someone else), but also for the stories. Yes, the rogues gallery Ditko created can never be outdone, but what was done with them after his departure was exceptional. What writers like Gerry Conway, and Len Wein did with them really cemented them in the Spider-Man mythos. In this story (originally presented in Amazing Spider-Man #73, 1965), Spidey and Captain Stacy are trying to figure out where the Shocker has hidden the tablet he stole in the previous arc. There’s only one problem, the Maggia also want to know where it is, and they’ve hired some new muscle to find it – Man-Mountain Marko!

This issue in particular was penciled by none other than “Big” John Buscema (over John “Ring-a-Ding”Romita layouts). Buscema didn’t do many pages of the wall-crawler, but when he did, it was incredible as his work always was back in the day. Inking is marvel perennial favorite, Jim “Madman” Mooney! This guy can ink, pencil, do interiors, covers, you name it! And all with a consistency and professionalism like the others in the Marvel bullpen! Let us not forget the letters by “Sleepy” Sam Rosen and story by “Smilin'” Stan Lee! One look at this cover (by Romita), and you know you’re back in the heyday of Marvel Comics!

 

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The Incredible Hulk #304, 1985 “Prisoners!”

The Incredible Hulk is a character that I’ve always loved but more in the group setting, like The Defenders! But I do own a few issues where the Hulk is the main character, like this one! The Hulk fighting aliens is a great concept just on the limitless possibilities alone. Throw in the Hulk’s melancholy, and you’ve got a recipe for something great! The 1980’s brought a lot more Hulk than Banner, and for some, that was a nice change of course. The Banner identity does bring a good dose of reality though, and sometimes the stories without him are slightly lacking in that department. The Hulk actually shows us that he does have a softer, more sympathetic side as well in this issue.

Written by none other than Bill Mantlo (ROM, The Micronauts), penciled by Sal Buscema (The Defenders, Spectacular Spider-Man), inks by Gerry Talaoc, letters by Ken Bruzenak, colors by Bob Sharen, and edited by Carl Potts! Check out this wacky sci-fi story that also features a cover by Mike Mignola and Kevin Nowlan! Enjoy!

 

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Ghost Rider #41, 1979 “The Freight Train to Oblivion”

I love Johnny Blaze! No, not the “Nicholas Cage I’m doing my Elvis impersonation” guy, but the stunt biker with an attitude that laughs in the face of danger! Listen, if all you know about Ghost Rider is from that craptastic movie, then get out and grab some old issues or Essentials of old flame-head! His early stuff is definitely solid material and when you have god creators like this title typically did, you get good results! In this story, we see Johnny get knocked out, lose his memory, and fall for a hot little lady that drives a race-car!

The writer, Michael Fleisher, had a decent run on this title. he had the pleasure to work with great artists like Don Perlin (pencils & inks). These two guys had a solid run on this title, and really took the character in some interesting directions. Add letterer Clement Robins, colorist Ben Sean, and editor Roger Stern, and you have a great combination! Don’t forget the cool cover by Bob Budiansky and Bob Wiacek! And if that wasn’t enough, you get a guest appearance by Laurel and Hardy!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Werewolf (1956)

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Title: The Werewolf

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Writer: Robert E. Kent

Director:  Fred F. Sears

Producer:  Sam Katzman

Starring: Don Megowan, Joyce Holden, Steven Ritch, Harry Lauter

Released: July 1956

MPAA: Approved

 

 

OK, so, after a few weeks of giant bugs, then on to more of a classic theme, I’d like to take a look at something a little more off the beaten path this week. And so we shall see The Werewolf, from 1956. There’s a unique spin on this flick, that instead of a wolf bite changing the man, a lab experiment results in the ability to transform. No big stars in this one, so the film had to use the sci-fi/horror craze to try to entice audiences. An experienced crew behind the camera helped get this one off of the ground, and you can see that through the entire film. Alright, let’s get to the film!

 

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The film begins with a voice (Fred Sears), narrating. He tells the viewers about Lycanthropy, and its dangers! Next, we see a man, Duncan Marsh (Steven Ritch – image below) walking down the street, and then he ducks into a pub. He downs a few shots, then heads over to the fireplace to warm his hands. Another man sits at the bar with a creepy look on his face, and he seems to be taking quite an interest in the other man. The man leaves the bar, and the other gentleman goes after him. He stops him in the street and the two exchanges some words. The man who was at the bar first, asks him to buy a couple of drinks because he’s broke and saw the other man had some cash. He then tries to mug the guy and take his money. The scene shifts to the dark alley, and all we hear is some growling and screaming, and only one man exits the alley. An old woman is walking by and sees the man leave, she screams, and the people from the pub come to see what’s wrong. She claims two men were fighting in the alley but only a beast emerged. Deputy Clovey (Harry Lauter) heads in along with the others for a look. They see a dead man with his throat torn out.

 

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The men then head into the forest to hunt this wild animal, and get more than they bargained for when they set out. They see wolf tracks in the snow, and two of the men get scared. Deputy Clovey tells them to head back into town and get the sheriff. A short time later, the sheriff comes back to town with Clovey, and his shirt is ripped into pieces. He was attacked by a wolf, but Sheriff Haines showed up and scared the animal off with his gun. He takes him to the local doctor, and Dr. Gilchrist (Ken Christy – image below) administers some first aid. His niece, Amy Standish (Joyce Holden – image below), is his assistant, and she’s also coincidentally engaged to Sheriff Haines.

 

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The next day, Marsh waking up out in the woods. He’s extremely disoriented, and in pain. For some reason his shoes are missing, and it’s very cold outside. He cries out in agony, as it seems he remembers what he did while he was “changed.” Back in town, the sheriff informs the townspeople that no one is allowed in the woods until further notice. This upsets all the local hunters, but he tells them too bad. Some reporters make their way from the big city to Mountaincrest after they heard about the murder. The sheriff initially keeps them out, but then decides to let them through to try to find the story. Over at the doctor’s house, Amy is startled by Marsh, who’s come to get some help with his amnesia. he goes inside, and tells the two of them that he can’t remember anything about his past except a car accident, and two doctors taking him in to a room. He then confesses to the murder from the night before. The doctor and Amy look puzzled, and then try to give him something to calm him down, but he slaps it away and runs off.

 

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Back in town, Amy and the doc tell the sheriff what happened. They ask him to not kill the guy because he’s out of his mind. The scene changes to a mad scientist-type laboratory. One man is working on a machine, and then another calls to him, and refers to him as “Morgan” (George Lynn). He and the other man, Emery (S. John Launer), read a newspaper and realize that the man they worked on has committed this murder. These two doctors have apparently been running experiments using a formula containing radiation. A ring at the door interrupts their conversation about what to do with Marsh. As Morgan answers the door, he’s greeted by Mrs. Marsh (Eleanore Tanin), and she’s wondering where her husband is since she hasn’t seen him since the car accident. Morgan lies and tells her that after they treated him, he took off and they haven’t seen him since.

 

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Out in the wilderness, the hunting party isn’t having any luck finding this ravenous beast or Marsh. Morgan and Emery set out to try to find him as well, and have better results because they think like an animal. Emery finds him, but once Marsh realizes they’re here to kill him, he wolfs out, and tries to kill them. The sheriff and his posse show up and shoot at the beast, and he runs away. They question the two doctors, and their story is kind of shady, but they allow them to stay. The sheriff and his men then head back to town, and then post guards around town to stop any more slayings. The werewolf then turns to killing sheep, and the sheriff warns all the local farmers to get into town as quickly as possible. Amy is still trying to convince the sheriff that Marsh needs help, and not to be killed.

 

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The sheriff and his men begin to set traps around the perimeter of town, in hopes of capturing the beast. Another problem arises when Mrs. Marsh and her son are on their way to Mountaincrest as well. Will the sheriff and his men be able to capture the beat or will they have to put him down…if they can!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

For a low-budget flick, this is a pretty solid film. Yeah, it’s mostly your standard fare from the 1950’s, but the angle of science creating the werewolf, and not a wolf bite was pretty cool. Having the two doctors get crazy and try to kill the werewolf was very different as well. Typically the doctors want to capture the beast, dissect it, and figure out how to do it better next time. Not here though. As far as the acting goes, most of the roles were pretty good, and even though none of the faces/names were familiar to me, I’m definitely going to seek out more from this crew! Well, definitely Joyce Holden (image below)!

The sets were OK, but nothing spectacular. The outdoor scenes were are alright, and the town settings were slightly better. The lighting was kind of low at a few points when they were filming indoors, but overall, it was nothing terrible. The music score didn’t do the film any favors, but had one or two high points. Producer/Director Sam Katzman has a list of credits a mile long, and when you look at it, his status in the industry is well deserved. Fred Sears (Director) is no slouch either, and made his mark in the film industry with some other solid movie credits. One note about the cast. The sheriff, Don Megowan, was also the Gill-Man in the third Creature from the Black Lagoon film!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Power Man #54, 1978 “Heroes for Hire!”

In many ways, nothing screams the 1970’s more than Power Man and Iron Fist! A bad street dude with impenetrable skin and a millionaire playboy with an affection for martial arts, the perfect combination, no doubt. You get the martial arts craze, plus the blaxploitation angle as well. Quite an awesome mixture! In another great and timely scenario, we see a one-time villain, the Incinerator! Not to mention a quick glimpse of the awesome Thunderer, from Ku’n L’un! Any fan of the more recent Iron Fist series (Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja), knows that name and place very well.

The story, written by Ed Hannigan, is one that covers a lot of ground. By issues end though, you get a feeling that it’s complete. The penciler is an artist I’ve never even heard of, but Lee Elias does a pretty solid job. Inks by Bob Jenny and Ricardo Villamonte, letters by Jean Simek, and colors by F. Mouly, rounds out the creative team. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the totally awesome cover by Keith Pollard (pencils) and Frank Giacoia (inks)!

 

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Daredevil #132, 1976 “No Matter What Happens—BULLSEYE Rules Supreme!”

This issue is one of the oldest issues of Daredevil that I own. It’s also the second appearance of Bullseye! The first appearance showed Bullseye giving old horn-head a butt whoopin’! But, in this issue, we see Matt get some revenge, and put this crazy villain in his place! At a circus, no less! Back then, Bullseye wasn’t quite as homicidal as he’s portrayed later on by Frank Miller, and other writers, but he certainly wanted to kill Daredevil! In this issue we see everything, from Bullseye riding an elephant (yes, seriously!), and then him shooting another man out of a canon at DD! Created by Marv Wolfman (writer) and Bob Brown (pencils), Bullseye brought something new to the table, and obviously he’s been a mainstay in the Marvel Universe ever since! Inks by Klaus Janson, colors by Michele Wolfman, and letters by Joe Rosen! Great cover as well, and we have Rich Buckler and Dan Adkins for that one! On Friday the 13th, is there anything more frightening than Bullseye riding an elephant? I think not! Enjoy!   Image (30) Image (33) Image (37) Image (34) Image (35) Image (36)

Marvel Feature #2 (V2), 1975 “Blood of the Hunter”

Taking a look at another Marvel heroine from the 1970’s (previously Spider-Woman), the Robert E. Howard creation, Red Sonja is ready to kick some butt! Of course, the title was part of the zeitgeist of the times, but Howard was a little ahead of time, to say the least. Creating a female character that could hold her own against any male warrior was something quite astonishing for the 1930’s. So, yeah, if you don’t know much about the work of the brilliant man who was Robert E. Howard, look him up!

The creative team is a bit of a mystery for me personally, as I’m not familiar with either the writer, Bruce Jones, or the artist, Frank Thorne. I can find plenty of work both gentlemen have done, but most are titles that are either not my thing (Heavy Metal) or just not something I’ve acquired yet (House of Mystery). The editor, “Rascally” Roy Thomas, on the other hand is very familiar to me, and his work especially in revitalizing the work of Howard, is very well-known to those in and around comics. Thank you, Mr. Thomas!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Haunted Palace (1963)

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Title: The Haunted Palace

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Charles Beaumont (screenplay), based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft

Director: Roger Corman

Producers: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Roger Corman, James H. Nicholson

Starring: Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., Debra Paget, Frank Maxwell

Released: August 1963

MPAA: Approved

 

Once again, I’m strolling down the halls of the horror hall of fame! Not only does this film have Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., but it also has Roger Corman directing! This is the first American film to introduce the works of H.P. Lovecraft to moviegoers. The film is based on a story called “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” and not off of an Edgar Allan Poe story (a common misconception because of the way the movie was promoted as being part of the set of movies Corman had previously done). For fans of the film that don’t know about the story behind it, definitely read up on Lovecraft, he was an interesting writer.

Alright, well, you can see from the movie poster, that this film is a wild one that involves all sorts of creepy elements. Murder, black magic, and beautiful ladies are what classic horror movies are made of…or so I’m told. AIP (American International Pictures) and Roger Corman made a lot of films together with this formula (8-9 I believe), and it worked out brilliantly. Price, along with people like Karloff, Lorre, and so on, had so much talent and an eeriness about them that vault these films from flimsy to fantastic! Now, without any further delay, here’s the film!

 

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The movie opens with a few men hanging out at a local pub (around 1765, somewhere in New England). One of them, Ezra Weeden (Leo Gordon – image above), sits by the window, as if he’s on watch. Another man, Micah Smith (Elisha Cook Jr. – image above) urges him to chill out and have some fun, but he refuses, citing that there’s foul play about, and he knows who’s behind it. Suddenly, amidst the fog, we see a young woman walking alone. Through the town, and up to the old house at the end of the town. The door opens, and she’s met by two people. Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price), and Hester Tillinghast (Cathie Merchant), welcome her in, and then proceed to take her to the bowels of the old palace. Once there, they chain her up over a pit, and after reciting some kind of incantation, a hellish creature begins to rise from the fiery pit.

 

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Meanwhile, the villagers have grabbed their pitchforks and torches, and are heading to the house. They hear her scream and begin to pound on the door. Curwen answers, and tells them to get lost. They question the girl, and she seems to be in a trance, so they agree that he’s a warlock, and drag him off to be burned at the stake. They initially grab the woman as well, but Curwen tells them to leave her alone because she’s been “hexed.” After they drag Curwen away, he tells Hester that once he’s dead, they’ll be able to be together again. They all march towards town, and then condemn him, and he warns them that he’ll return to seek revenge against the town leaders. They light the straw, and burn him anyway.

 

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Sherman set the WABAC machine 110 years into the future in New England. We see a man, Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price), and his wife, Anne (Debra Paget), arrive at the docks, and head into the town of Arkham. They are very excited to see a house that Charles has inherited, but cannot find it initially. They stop at a local pub, and ask the inhabitants of the home’s whereabouts. The townspeople are very frigid toward them, and even refuse to tell the location of the house. Ward and his wife are about to give up, when one of the men, Dr. Willet (Frank Maxwell), tells them how to get to the house. As they leave the pub, they run into some people with terrible deformities, and they wonder why so many in the town have this affliction. Back at the pub, the descendants of the original townspeople argue over the curse that Curwen laid on them, and the fact that Ward is a dead-ringer for him.

 

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As Charles and Anne near the home, they get an uneasy feeling, but enter once they arrive.  Ward then sees a painting of the previous owner, his great-grandfather, Curwen, and is struck into a momentary trance. Anne asks what’s wrong, and he tells her nothing. Anne attempts to open a cabinet, but then a poisonous snake pops out. Ward grabs a hatchet and chops its head off. Anne then moves towards another room, but Charles tells her that it doesn’t lead anywhere. She asks how he knows this, and he replies that “it’s just a guess.” As they search through the dark house, they’re surprised by a man, Simon Orne (Lon Chaney Jr.). He tells them that he’s the caretaker of the old palace, and that he has been so for a long time. Anne is frightened out her skin, but Charles seems to be OK with the creepy old guy. She wants to leave, but Charles insists that they stay the night.

 

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Over on the other side of town, we see one of the villagers, Edgar Weeden, and his wife. Edgar feeds a beast/person, that’s locked up behind a huge door. The thing grabs Weeden, and almost tears his arm off, but he uses the flame of the candle he’s carrying to burn it. Weeden then tells his wife that the beast knows who’s come back to Arkham, and that is why the beast is upset. Back at the palace, Charles has a cigar, and stares at the painting of Curwen. It seems to be driving him mad, but then he suddenly turns around, and has a sinister look on his face. The next day, Anne is ready to leave and asks Charles if he’s ready to leave. He tells her he’s decided to stay, so he can fix up the place and sell it. His demeanor is completely different, and he suggests that if she doesn’t want to stay, she can go home without him. She’s shocked by his abrupt attitude, but he then apologizes.

 

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That night, they head into town, but everyone seems to be gone, and the pub is closed. As they turn around, they’re surrounded by the deformed people in the town. As the church bells ring, they walk simply away. The two have Dr. Willet over, and have dinner with him. He explains to them why the other townspeople don’t like them, and all about the warlock, Joseph Curwen. He tells them that Curwen’s wife, died in labor, so Curwen selected Weeden’s betrothed for his new “woman.” He tells them that young woman began to disappear and Curwen was suspected. They then learned the rest of the gory details, including the curse. He also mentions that Curwen was rumored to have gained possession of a book called the Necronomicon (there’s your Lovecraft reference), and that it supposedly could give a man ultimate power, by being able to summon the Old Ones (Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, etc.).

 

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Later that night, Anne wakes up, and finds Charles out on the balcony, in the middle of a storm. He hears wailing from the town below, and it seems to intrigue him. As he walks downstairs, some unseen force leads him outside, and he begins to hear the events of the night his ancestor was burned. He’s surprised by Simon, and he tells Charles to ask Curwen about the voices he heard. Simon then  follows him inside the house, and Curwen then possess the body of Charles Dexter Ward. Simon then brings him the Necronomicon, and another servant pops up as well. Curwen then tells them that Ward is fighting him, and that he wont be able to gain full control for a while yet. Anne finds him downstairs but he cannot explain how he got there or why he cannot leave.

 

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The next evening, the villagers are discussing what they might have to do, but Dr. Willet tells them to stop being foolish. Ward/Curwen then has his two henchmen dig up a corpse, and bring it back to the palace. Anne asks what’s going on, and he tells her to mind her own business. Ward then tries to fight Curwen’s influence, and he catches Anne spying on him. He shouts at her and tells her that tomorrow she must leave for Boston. Upstairs in the bedroom, Anne hears some wailing, so she gets up to investigate the noise. A door creaks open, and she heads inside. Down to the lower depths of the old palace she descends, rats pop up, and then she finds an old wooden door, and opens it. As she’s creeping around, she’s surprised by Simon, and faints. We then see that Curwen exhumed his dead wife, and uses a spell to resurrect her, but it seems that she might be dead for too long and the spell wont work. Simon rushes him upstairs, as Charles is trying to take control. Anne explains to a bewildered Charles that he hasn’t been himself, and he agrees to leave the next day.

The next day arrives, and they attempt to leave, but Simon holds them for a moment, and Curwen takes control. As Anne is waiting with the coach, Dr. Willet arrives and tells Anne about the grave robbing incident, and that the villagers blame her husband. Ward/Curwen appears and tells Willet and his wife that he wont be leaving, and that the villagers might as well give up, because he’ll never leave…

 

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Will Charles Dexter Ward be able to re-assume control of his body, or will the soul of his evil relative keep control and get his revenge against the villagers?!? Watch this one to find the answers!

OK, here are my thoughts:

As a mild fan of the Lovecraft mythos, I can’t claim to know much about the film’s influence from the story (I’ve never read it). I will say this though, that even if the influence isn’t exceptionally strong,it still will intrigue you (and it has me) to seek out Lovecraft’s work. Corman did his usual magic with virtually no money, and it’s his forte. He’s literally the only director I can think of that time and time again made solid films with very little money. Sure, some of them weren’t so great, but the majority of them have very solid scripts and/or acting.

Speaking of acting, Vincent Price delivers a performance for the ages in this one. I liken it to House of Wax or The Last Man on Earth. It’s that good. Debra Paget is great as the frightened wife, and really puts on a great performance. Her hatred for Curwen but love for Ward is incredible. Chaney isn’t in very many scenes, but adds his usual luster and presence to the film. The sets are small but effective, and of course, the budget had a lot to do with that. There wasn’t anything overly exceptional about the music score, but it was sufficient to get you riled up a time or two.

Solid acting, sets, and a story that is eerie, creepy, and all around evil! Get this one on the watch list sooner than later, because you’ll enjoy it if you’re a Price fan, Lovecraft fan, or just a classic horror fan in general!

Click here for the trailer!

Spider-Woman #10, 1979 “Where Flies the Gypsy Moth”

I knew I’d get to this sooner or later. My one and only issue of the series “Spider-Woman.” I wasn’t a big fan of hers years ago, but when Brian M. Bendis brought her back into the spotlight, I was invigorated to find out more about this great character! In this issue, we see Jessica and her boyfriend, Jerry Hunt, spending some alone time on a beach. Suddenly, Jessica sees a woman in costume flying overhead! She investigates, and initially thinks she found a kindred spirit.

Characters are great, but a solid creative team can take a terrible one and turn in a masterpiece when all’s said and done. The first thing that jumps out at you is the awesome cover, by Carmine Infantino and Bob McLeod! Great perspective, and I love the face on the blond-haired guy to the right side of the cover!  As if those two great creators weren’t enough, you get a story by “Masterful” Mark Gruenwald, the interior pencils are also by Carmine Infantino, with inks by Al Gordon. Colors by F. Mouly, letters by Irv Watanabe, and edited by Roger Stern! When you see a roll call like that, you know you must read this book!

 

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Jungle Action #7, 1973 “Death Regiments Beneath Wakanda”

The title Jungle Action, started off as a reprint book showcasing stories from the 1950’s of…well, jungle action, from the series of the same title (and others). In issue #5 however, the book became a vehicle for the Black Panther! This Jack Kirby creation was very prominent in the pages of the Fantastic Four, but after Kirby left, it seemed like the character lost his home. The character would find a home here, then transition to the Avengers, and become a regular there for a time.

The writer, ‘Dutiful’ Don McGregor, is one that had the Midas touch when it came to certain characters, and the Black Panther is definitely one of them! Teamed with penciler ‘Riotous’ Rich Buckler, the two would be a solid duo that cranked out many great books over time. Inks by ‘Santa’ Klaus Janson, letters by ‘Titanic’ Tom Orzechowski, colors by Glynis Wein, and edited by ‘Rascally’ Roy Thomas!

 

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