The Incredible Hulk 197, 1976 “…And Man-Thing Makes Three!”

Since October is now upon us, my blog will feature nothing but horror comics. Although it does feature this genre often, I couldn’t wait for this month to come because I love horror comics! Honestly, I love comics period, but even when a horror character makes an appearance in a superhero book I love it! This is the case with this book, as the Incredible Hulk must fight not one but two horror characters that actually prove that not only can the Hulk be beaten, but knocked completely unconscious! And you know when the Collector is involved, things will get cosmic!

I usually don’t start talking about the creative team by mentioning the cover. Not because I’m a heel or anything, but typically, an issue overall offers more from the inside. There’s no way possible for me to not start with “Bashful” Bernie Wrightson (cover art). He didn’t do that much work for Marvel Comics, but, wow, this one is amazing! When you open this book, you’ll quickly learn why I love the writing of “Lively” Len Wein. No matter who the characters, or the setting, scenario, etc., the guy delivers a solid story/script. When you also then get an interior art team like “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils) and Joe Staton (inks), it’s quite a treat. Glynis Wein (colors) and John Costanza (letters) add their talents to this great book, that was edited by “Marvelous” Marv Wolfman!









The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)


Title: The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake

Distributor: United Artists

Writer: Orville H. Hampton

Director: Edward L. Cahn

Producer: Robert Kent

Starring: Henry Daniell, Grant Richards, Valerie French, Eduard Franz, Paul Cavanaugh

Released: November 1959

MPAA: Approved


It’s Sunday, and that means another review of a classic flick! This one is a good one, especially if you’re into witch doctors! Why it has taken me so long to get this one out there, I can’t remember, but anyone that hasn’t seen this movie needs to right away. Things weren’t so great in the 1950’s for UA United Artists), but once the next decade rolled around they got into television, and had some better success. Don’t sleep on this one though, it’s a diamond in the rough! Both Kent (producer) and Cahn (director) had already made some decent horror/sci-fi movies for other companies, and they definitely brought that same kind of feel to this one.

I love the concept of witch doctors in films, probably ever since I saw this guy. No joke! Alright, enough of the foolishness, let’s get right down to this thriller!



The film begins with an older gentleman named Jonathan Drake (Eduard Franz) in his study. He has a book opened, and the passage reads…”the evil that men do lives after them.” We then focus on the man himself, as he’s deep in thought, and obviously afraid of something. In his hand he holds a shrunken head! A strong breeze whips through the room, and the candles are blown out. A young woman enters the room, and we find out that she’s his daughter, Allison (Valerie French). She questions him as to his trance-like state, but he won’t tell her. She tells him that her uncle Kenneth called but she’s having trouble remembering what he said exactly. Jonathan knows something is up, so he sends a message to his brother that he’s on his way to see him (the trip takes two days).



Over at the home of Kenneth Drake (Paul Cavanaugh), we see the servant, Rogers, and Kenneth discussing the arrival of his brother. We then see someone creeping around the outside of his home, and that person hangs a shrunken head in front of the glass doors that lead to the garden. As he attempts to investigate, a witch doctor jumps out of nowhere, and sticks a needle into his neck! The poison tip injects a paralyzing agent into his blood stream, and renders him defenseless. As he’s about to do further damage, Rogers returns, and the witch doctor runs off.



The following day, a police detective shows up, and Lt. Rowan (Grant Richards) tells Rogers he was called by Allison and told to check out the house because she and her father feared there might be trouble. Rogers tells the policeman that the only trouble was that Kenneth died suddenly last night from heart failure. Lt. Rowan tells him that he’ll talk to the family doctor about it and make sure everything is OK. Rowan then meets Dr. Bradford (Howard Wendell), and Dr. Emil Zurich (Henry Daniell), a family friend and noted archaeologist. There’s a long history of heart failure in the family so no one questions the death.



After some talk about the shrunken head, Rowan leaves but is very suspicious. Later that night, Kenneth’s corpse is in a casket at the funeral home, and the witch doctor pops up again. He has a basket and then the scene cuts to the funeral (a bit later or the following day perhaps). Jonathan shows up just in time for the funeral, and questions Dr. Bradford about the cause of death. He doesn’t believe him when he tells him it was heart failure, and needs to see the body to be sure. He opens the casket, and everyone screams in horror as we see the body has been decapitated!



We then see a laboratory with the creepy Dr. Zurich and his accomplice, Zutai (Paul Wexler).¬† They open the basket we saw Zutai with earlier, and we see he’s the on that cut off Kenneth’s head. Zurich spouts off about a curse, and that Drake had it coming. Rowan then comes over and questions Allison about what she knows, but she’s little help. Back at the laboratory, we see Zutai and Zurich cooking the head of poor Kenneth, after they’ve removed the skull, of course. They make a shrunken head out of Kenneth, and seem very pleased with their work.



Back at the Drake mansion, Jonathan tells Allison about the family curse. He tells her that a few generations ago, their ancestors made a trip into the jungle, and even though it was a peaceful endeavor, but after one of their numbers was kidnapped and beheaded, they slaughtered all the tribal people, except the witch doctor. He managed to get away, and we’re lead to believe that Zutai is that man.

Can Rowan and Allison figure out how to stop this madness or will Jonathan Drake be the next victim!


OK, here are my thoughts:

As I stated earlier, UA was going through some tough times financially during this era, but you can’t tell from watching this film. The atmosphere is spectacular, and the actors are on point. No one person stands out but everybody delivers as they should. Wexler and Daniell are especially creepy and play their parts as if they were really into it.

The sets were very good, and helped the atmosphere keep you in suspense. As far as music, Paul Dunlap did a fine job with the score. When it counted, the music was hair-raising! As soon as you see the names Robert Kent and Edward Cahn, you know that the film has two solid men behind it. Cahn’s work for AIP is legendary as is Kent’s with Columbia. And if that wasn’t enough, you get the stunning Valerie French to gaze upon (image below)!

Set aside some time for this thriller, you wont be disappointed!


Click here for the trailer!





Giant-Size Man-Thing 2, 1974 “Of Monsters and Men!”

How is it possible that a character that cannot speak be so appealing? Well, when you take an origin story that involves a mystical swamp (near the Nexus of All Realities), a scientist, and Hydra (a later retcon not explicitly told in the origin story), and you’ve got a great way to convince me. Taking the concept from King Kong (1933), men who seek to cage something unnatural, and put it on display, are just begging for trouble. The trope of trying to contain something that is virtually uncontrollable, is one that’s been used many times over, with a varying degree of success. This time is definitely on the positive side.

When he was still alive, the mind of Steve “Baby” Gerber (writer) might have been a scary place to dive into. Hi stories about the weird and supernatural are top-notch. Why he isn’t recognized more outside of the circle of hardcore fans is a mystery to me, especially considering the praise other creators from that era and beyond seem to have for him and his work. Of Out of all the people who’ve drawn Man-Thing, I think “Big” John Buscema (pencils on interiors, and cover art) is my favorite. He certainly understood how to draw everything¬† even though he’s gone on record stating he didn’t like to draw superheroes all that much, he always did an admirable job. He is still one of the giants of the industry. “Santa” Klaus Janson (inks) is an artist that I first saw on Daredevil, and always thought he brought an extra dimension to whatever he had his hands in. John Costanza (letters) and Linda Lessmann (colors), are two very capable contributors that never failed to get it done. Let us not forget “Rascally” Roy Thomas (editor), as his work not only as a writer, but editing also is something that puts him at the top of the food chain in comic book history! You also get three bonus stories with work by great creators like Dick Ayers, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby!











Weird Adventure Comics 435, 1974 “The Man Who Stalked the Specter!”

Yeah, I’m a Marvel Zombie, but sometimes, a comic is so cool, no matter who the publisher is I must buy it. That’s the case with this one! The character “The Specter,” is one that is creepy and heroic at the same time. His run-ins with Deadman are pretty cool too, so check those out. Characters that are ghosts have always intrigued me (Gentleman Ghost, Deadman, etc.). Most of the time they’re always in the middle of a story that has a supernatural aspect, and that’s most of the allure for me. There is also a good Aquaman back-up story (Steve Skeates writer, Mike Grell art) in this issue as well!

The name Michael Fleisher (writer), is one that most avid comic book readers should know. I know his work from the Ghost Rider stories he did back in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. The artwork (cover, interior pencils and inks), was by a man who I’m growing ever fond of, and it seems that Jim Aparo never disappoints me. The editor was another solid name in the biz, Joe Orlando!









Cinema Sunday: Shadow of the Cat (1961)



Title: Shadow of the Cat

Distributor: Hammer Studios (Universal in U.S.)

Writer: George Baxt

Director: John Gilling

Producer: Jon Penington

Starring: Andre Morell, Barbara Shelley, Freda Jackson, William Lucas, Conrad Phillips

Released: May 1961

MPAA: UR (est. PG-13)



As the week’s roll on, the temptation to review another film from Hammer Studios is gnawing at me. So, the way to stop it is to give my psyche what it wants! Obviously Hammer is known for their horror films, and this is one of the first they did once they committed to that genre. Their catalog is varied but let’s face it, horror/sci-fi is where it’s at.

One actor that made a name for himself with Hammer, was Andre Morell. He’s one of those guys that rarely gets mentioned but had a solid acting career, and really made a name for himself in the genre. Well, rather than go on more about this classic, we can just get right down to this black and white thriller!



The film begins with an elderly woman, Ella Venable (Catherine Lacey) sitting in an upstairs room as she’s just finished making out her last will and testament. She’s reading some Edgar Allen Poe to her cat, Templeton, just then someone enters her home and disturbs her. The person is not a burglar, but actually a family member. The man (actually the butler) enters the room, and she mistakenly thinks it’s Walter, her husband, (Andre Morell), but he’s downstairs, waiting for his role in this insidious plot. The younger man then savagely beats the old woman with a blunt object. The three conspirators (a woman as well as the two men), then take the body and bury it on the grounds of the estate.



The trio seems to be worried about the only witness, the cat. It watches them bury the old woman, and you get a sense that it wants revenge. The following day, the police are called in, and the trio acts as if they know nothing about the altercation. At first, the police seem to believe there’s no foul play, but certainly don’t rule it out. An old woman missing is certainly nothing new, but one that was a homebody is puzzling.



After the police leave, the three conspirators attempt to locate a will that was made out years ago. They don’t have much luck, and, at every turn, the mischievous cat is lingering. Walter then decides to call the niece of the deceased woman, so that they can persuade her to legitimize the new will Walter had her make recently. The cat makes an appearance, and the butler, chases it to the basement, where he and Walter attempt to kill it. They both seem very nervous, and fumble about in the basement trying to kill the cat. Walter strikes the butler by accident, then shouts at him to get out. Walter is then attacked by the cat, and suffers a heart attack.



Soon, the arrival of the niece, Beth Venable (Barbara Shelley) adds a different dimension, as she loves the cat, and was also a favorite of her recently murdered Aunt. She’s very skeptical about what’s going on, and befriends the cat, which puts her at odds with the conspirators. Walter puts on a good act, and Beth buys it for a while. One of the policemen, Inspector Rowles (Alan Wheatley), and a newspaper man, Michael Lattimer (Conrad Phillips) begin to see a picture of what is going here though, and he intends to prove there was foul play.



The conspirators eventually meet their doom, and the cat seems to be responsible, but is it? Watch to find out!



OK, here are my thoughts:

I didn’t go into too much detail but you get the gist. Andre Morell plays a great scoundrel in this one, which is quite a contrast to his usual heroics. Somehow, he and the other conspirators make you believe that the cat has a supernatural makeup to it. Maybe it was buried in a pet cemetery? Anyhow, for a film from this era, and in black and white, it holds up well. Freda Jackson (Brides of Dracula) is great in this one too. She’s one of the conspirators that really is nothing short of evil. Of course, it’s great to see villains get their comeuppance and you do get that in this film.

Long time Hammer contributors like Roy Ashton (make-up) and Bernard Robinson (production design) are always names you want to see in the credits because their hard work always shows up in the movie. When you have a beauty like Barbara Shelley, that doesn’t hurt your chances either. She is definitely one of the actresses that needs to get her due, not only for being gorgeous, but for also being a good actor.


Click here for the trailer!


Supernatural Thrillers 4, 1973 “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

The title “Supernatural Thrillers” is probably most known for the Living Mummy character, but its beginnings were quite different. The first four issues contained stories based off of classic monsters! This one in particular is an adaptation of the classic story by Robert Lois Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! The story revolves around a certain doctor that is having a crisis of conscience. He believes that his scientific endeavors trump any sort of morality. Hammer Studios did a movie adaptation that was marvelous, so definitely check that out!

The team of creators on this book are foreign to me (with the exception of the artist) for the most part. The writer, Ron Goulart, is most known for his mystery and sci-fi work. The interior artwork is by Golden Age DC artist, Win Mortimer (Superman, Superboy). He was instrumental in that era’s consistency, and along with others like Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, Joe Kubert, and more. Letters were by Jean Izzo and editing was Roy Thomas! The cover was by “Rampaging” Ron Wilson and Ernie Chan!









Worlds Unknown 7 and 8, 1974 “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”

Being a huge fan of Ray Harryhausen, I’m always delighted to see a comic book that was influenced by work of his. Well, there were at least books I know of that were straight up adaptations of his stop-motion work. One is Marvel Spotlight 25, and the other two are Worlds Unknown 7 & 8! Both of these comics showcase a film “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,” condensed, of course. We see Sinbad and his crew battle mythical monsters, evil sorcerers, and the like!

Len Wein (writer) is a guy who’s probably most known for being a part of resurrecting the X-Men franchise, and rightly so, but if you look at the entire body of work, he deserves much more credit. It doesn’t take a writing wizard to adapt a movie into a comic book, Ill give you that, but seeing his name in the credits of any book puts my mind at ease. The art team of George Tuska (interior pencils and cover pencils to issue 7) and Vince Colletta (inks- interiors and covers) is one that some might malign. I understand when people complain about Colletta rushing jobs and putting out substandard work. He has done some good work though, and I think issues like these two prove it. Glynis Wein (colors) and John Costanza (letters) both were always very solid and deserve kudos. On issue number eight, we get a cover by one of the masters of the comic book industry, Gil Kane!









Cinema Sunday: The Night Stalker (Kolchak) 1972


Title: The Night Stalker

Distributor: ABC Television

Writer: Richard Matheson (novel by Jeff Rice)

Director: John Llewellyn Moxey

Producer: Dan Curtis

Starring: Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Claude Akins, Elisha Cook Jr.

Released: January 1972

MPAA: NR (estimated PG)



Alright, time for another made-for-TV movie! It has been a little while since I’d done one of these, but trust me, this one deserve the attention! Yeah, at first glance most people are going to be all like…”hey, there’s Ralphie ‘s dad from A Christmas Story!”¬† And although it is true, this character (Kolchak) is nothing like that portrayal. With one notable bad performance (which I’ll get to later), this film was one that garnered much attention at the time, and actually was rated extremely high. The horror genre was in full swing in other media by now as well (comic books, movies, etc.), so this was perfect timing by the studio. OK, enough of the small talk, here comes the vampire action!



The film begins with a woman, who works at a casino in Las Vegas, heading home after a long, evening shift. A voice narrating (Darren McGaven), tells us about her and the situation in that city. She heads down an alleyway, and gets jumped by someone with an extreme amount of strength. She’s found the following day by a garbage man. The scene then switches to a hospital operating room, where three surgeons are baffled at the blood loss of the victim.



We next see reporter Karl Kolchak (Darren McGaven), as he heads toward Las Vegas. He comes back to work early from vacation at the behest of his boss. At the office, managing editor, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), barks at Kolchak, and tells him to head out and find something juicy about the murder. Kolchak heads to the hospital where a certain doctor gives him some tips every once in a while. The doctor tells him that there wasn’t anything about the murder that was suspicious except massive blood loss.



Kolchak then heads to the casino where the girl worked, and talks to one of her girlfriends, Gail Foster (Carol Lynley – image above), and she doesn’t really give anything he can use. We do however find out that Gail is Kolchak’s girlfriend. Just three days later, and we get another murder. This time, a girl is found in a desert area off of a freeway. The puzzling thing is that there are no footprints near the body, and that her throat has an injury to it. No blood is found by the victim. There are signs of a struggle nearby, but none near the corpse. The sheriff (Claude Akins) isn’t having any of Kolchak’s nonsense either.

Another couple of days, and another murder of a young woman. Same evidence or lack thereof is present, so Kolchak turns to a friend in the FBI, Bernie Jenks (Ralph Meeker). He asks him to use his resources to look into the murders. Kolchak gets a phone call and his friend at the hospital tells him that a different hospital was recently robbed of several containers of blood. Later that day, there’s a press conference held at city hall. The coroner tells the onlookers that the girls were bitten on the throat, and blood was pumped out of their bodies. He also tells them that human saliva was found on the wounds as well. The sheriff gets angry and yells at Kolchak when he asks the coroner about the possibility that a man tried to drink the girl’s blood for some unknown reason.



After the meeting, the sleazy mayor has a little meeting with Kolchak and basically warns him off of creating speculation about the crimes. Kolchak takes a story to Vincenzo, and he balls him out over it and threatens him as the mayor did earlier. As Kolchak is back at his place, he and Gail talk about the case. He gets a phone call about another murder, but this time there was a witness. The woman describes the killer and his car. Things quickly escalate after this, and Kolchak and the police are ready for action. He then gets one of his other contacts to do some digging for him, and the switchboard operator is more than happy to do it after he bribes her with chocolates (yes, really).



After a composite drawing of the killer, the police are ready to act on any kind of call. We next see the killer (not his face), stalk a young woman. He approaches her outside by her car, but suddenly, she opens the back door, and a huge dog jumps out of the car, and onto the killer. He easily thrashes the dog, and then the girl goes missing. Kolchak has it out with Vincenzo about the suppression of the news because of the police and politicians. Vincenzo tells him they don’t want to create a panic, so that’s why it’s being kept quiet. They eventually track down where the killer bought the car, but not much comes from that situation.

The next evening, Gail attempts to get Kolchak to buy into the killer being a real vampire. He isn’t having it, and before you know it, he’s out the door after hearing about another robbery at a hospital. We now get to see the killer, and what he can do. He manhandles two orderlies, and throws a third out of a two-story window. Before the killer can get away, the police arrive, and we see the killer absorb a multitude of shots from the police at close range…and he keeps going!



Is this killer just some kook wearing a bullet proof vest? Or is he the real deal? Can Kolchak survive a confrontation with this supernatural killer? You must see this one to find out!


OK, here are my thoughts:

For anyone that hasn’t seen this flick or the television show, you’re really missing out. There was another T.V. movie a couple of years later as well, but this one is really the best. Darren McGaven gives a fantastic performance, and really elevates this small screen production. Having guys like Richard Matheson (writer – screenplay) and Dan Curtis (producer) behind the scenes doesn’t hurt either, but he really sets the tone for this film. Even Carol Lynley (The Poseidon Adventure) was pretty convincing in her role as Kolchak’s girlfriend (except for the fact that he looks old enough to be her dad).

The soundtrack is pretty jazzy, and the overall production quality is solid. The special effects were few but definitely noteworthy, especially the scene where the dude was thrown out of the second-story window. The vampire wasn’t very menacing as far as the make-up, but he’s a pretty big dude, and that was enough to make him sort of scary. Plus they relied on atmosphere in most of his scenes, so there’s that too.

Definitely give this one a watch, as you’ll be impressed by McGaven’s work! The supporting cast also gives this one a helping hand (Carol Lynley is gorgeous!) for the most part (other than the overacting by the editor in the film).



Click here for the trailer!


Ghost Rider 42, 1980 “The Lonesome Death of Johnny Blaze”

I’ve read a couple of good chunks of Ghost Rider (volume one), and a scant few issues of the other series throughout the years. Nothing resonates with me except the earlier stuff with Johnny Blaze. Why? I don’t know, but I can tell you that the earlier work not only dealt with the horror genre but also the biker gang phase of culture in the 1970’s as well. It may be the mystery that was so exhilarating, coupled with the horror angle, but whatever it was, it sticks with you. The very early work was tied in with Daimon Hellstrom (the Son of Satan), which also added a really cool vibe to the character. This issue (I showcased the previous one here) has Johnny still an amnesiac, and fawning over a girl named Gina. There usually was a girl who would pop up now and again, to try the romance angle, but most of them were flat compared to Roxanne Simpson.

The name Michael Fleisher (writer) isn’t one that is tossed around everyday. He had a pretty good run on this title ( as well as Conan, House of Mystery, and House of Secrets), but mostly fill-ins and such. Don Perlin (pencils and inks) is a man who I admire. Another name that’s usually lost among the titans, but one that everyone should know. Anyone that frequents my blog knows him name though! Diana Albers (letters) and Ben Sean (colors), round out the creative team. Not to be forgotten are the two Bob’s! Bob Budiansky (pencils) and Bob Wiacek (inks) gave us this cool cover!








Thor 253, 1976 “Chaos in the Kingdom of the Trolls!”

Some of my favorite comics are those of Thor, volume one. Especially the issues in the mid-200s. I really enjoy the way each story seems self-contained but also connecting to the previous and following issues in a way that wasn’t inconvenient. In this second part of a three-part story, Tor must team-up with his sworn enemy, Ulik the Troll. These two absolutely hate one another, but they must work together to defeat a dragon and then a giant! By story’s end though, Ulik and his minions are laughing at the Prince of Asgard!

I’m a big fan of “Lively” Len Wein (writer/editor). From his work as an editor (Watchmen, New Teen Titans), and vision in reviving the X-Men franchise (along with Dave Cockrum), he really should be recognized a lot more than anyone seems to give him credit. Artist “Big” John Buscema (pencils), is a master that let us too soon. His work on books like Conan, The Avengers, and Silver Surfer are the stuff of legend. Of course, as with most artists, some inkers suited his style better than others, but honestly, his pencils were strong enough that they typically would show right through. One of the inkers that did suite him quite well, was Tony DeZuniga (Jonah Hex, Black Orchid). He’s another one of those guys that rarely gets enough airtime, as an inker or penciler, and that is a travesty. Colors were by the ever-present Marie Severin. She’s someone who should definitely be on your radar simply because not only was she a great artist, but also because she was one of the few women in comics since back in the Silver Age. Letters were by Condoy (?). The cover was by Jack “King” Kirby, and even though there appears to have been some alterations, you can still see the weight that Kirby’s pencils carry.