Fantasy Masterpieces #14, 1980 (originally SS #14, 1970) “The Surfer and The Spider!”

Getting two superheroes to fight is usually an interesting trope, but sometimes it does border on the ludicrous. This one lies somewhere in the middle, so fasten your seat-belt. Spidey and the Surfer haven’t had a lot of contact, so the times they do meet are kind of cool. The story really revolves around a boy that’s enthralled by comic books, and heroes such as these two. He gets a little too close to the action though, and winds up nearly being killed! Don’t worry, Spidey and the Surfer have enough time even with fighting to save the youth!

The glorious days of Marvel in the late Silver/early Bronze Age is undeniable. The work that Stan “The Man” Lee (writer) and “Big” John Buscema (pencils) put in on this title is awesome. Dan Adkins did a great job inking this story, and Sam Rosen with the letters as well.  The grandeur of the Silver Surfer was never on better display than in this series! Just an FYI: You also get an issue of Warlock (#11), that is also a fantastic read (Kudos to Jim Starlin, Steve Leialoha, and Tom Orzechowski)!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Black Sunday (1960)

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Title: Black Sunday (A.K.A. The Mask of Satan)

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Mario Bava (screenplay)

Director: Mario Bava

Producer: Massimo de Rita, Samuel Z. Arkoff

Starring: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani

Released: August 1960

MPAA: UR

 

I always try my best to keep my promises, so here we go with another film by the great, Mario Bava! After reviewing Planet of the Vampires a few weeks ago, I slowly began searching through his catalog for more films that I knew would be gems. It didn’t take long for me to settle on this one. This being Bava’s first credited film as director (he had apparently done a couple of others uncredited), and the film that put Barbara Steele on the map (she’d done a couple of films, but small roles before this)!

The film caused quite a stir when it was released in 1960, as it was a bit over-the-top for the times. Bava took chances, and really amped up the shock value in this film. The opening scene is one of legend, and really sets the tone for the entire film. Now, let us traverse back in time to the year 1630…

 

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The film opens with a duo, Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) and Javuto (Arturo Dominici), being put to death for witchcraft. The man leading the charge is Asa’s own brother! He puts his feelings aside and condemns the two to die for their crimes. The first thing he does is brand them with an “S” so that they are marked as Satan’s worshipers.  One of his minions places a mask with metal spikes on the inside over Asa’s face, while another man (wearing an executioners hood) uses a large hammer to pound in into her face! Just before this though, Asa puts a curse o her brother, and all that will follow in his bloodline. She is then burned at the stake, as a violent storm rages on. However, the storm puts out the flames before their bodies are burned.

 

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Fast-forward two centuries, and we see a carriage heading through the same woods where the  two were executed back in 1630. The two men inside, Dr. Thomas Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi), and Dr. Andre Gorobec (John Richardson), are on their way to a medical conference. The carriage breaks down, and the two doctors explore the area because they hear a strange sound emanating from an old cathedral. They find a tomb, and Kruvajan tells Gorobec that it is the tomb of the witch. Suddenly, the coachman asks for help repairing the carriage, so Gorobec leaves to help while Kruvajan continues searching the cathedral (a family crypt, actually). Kruvajan is attacked by a huge bat, but manages to kill the beast with his pistol.

 

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As the men are leaving, they are approached by a strange young woman who asks what they are doing there. Princess Katia (Barbara Steele), and Gorobec have an enchanted moment, then the good doctors leave, as the carriage is fixed. While Kruvajan was fighting the bat though, he was cut on some glass, and his blood seeped into the tomb of the witch. We see it seems to have an effect on her that might resuscitate her. Over at the castle of the Prince Vajda (Ivo Garrani), he and his two children, Katia, and her brother, Constantine (Enrico Olivieri), are on edge on this very eerie night. The Prince is staring at a painting of Asa (their ancestor), and then believes it moves! The servant, Ivan (Tino Bianchi), is then told about the curse of Asa. Ivan tells him to cling to the cross, as it will protect him against evil.

 

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As the evening wears on, we see the body of Asa, as it begins to transform from the blood of Kruvajan. She then telepathically summons her former accomplice, Javuto, and sends him on a mission to attack Prince Vajda. Javuto rises from the grave, and does indeed come upon the Prince in the castle, but Vajda has enough wherewithal to grab his crucifix, and it frightens off the ghoul. The conflict leaves him mentally unstable though, and very vulnerable. They send a servant to get Dr. Kruvajan, but he’s intercepted by Javuto. Javuto then tricks Kruvajan into thinking he’s the servant, and takes him instead to the crypt, where he’s bitten by Asa!

 

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Now that Asa has a servant to carry out her devious deeds, things get very interesting. She also has plans for Princess Katia, as well. She believes that her blood will revitalize her completely, and then she’ll make everyone pay!

Can Gorbec and a few others stop Asa and Javuto before they can turn all the villagers into their slaves? Tune in to find out!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

I’ve been aware of this film for quite some time now, but put off viewing it for some unknown reason. Now that I’ve seen it a few times, I really love it, and anyone that’s a fan of horror films from this era will as well. The only thing that was off was the voices that were dubbed. It bothered me for the first few minutes, but wore off after that time. The film (for its day) has a couple of violent scenes that moviegoers must have shrieked at. Bava really sets a creepy tone from the on-set of this film, both visually and mentally. For his first directorial credited film, it’s no wonder why studios were willing to give him some money to make films.

The musical score was very good too, and although the name Roberto Nicolosi is unfamiliar to me, he did a great job. Bava is also credited as the cinematographer, which makes perfect sense knowing his reputation for wanting to be in total control over that aspect of his films. And let’s be honest, it was probably for the best because he quite good at it. Barbara Steele is nothing short of gorgeous in this film, and you will want to see more of her films after you’ve seen this one, I guarantee it!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Marvel Team-Up Annual #4, 1981 “Power Play!”

Every good comic book has several elements in it. A solid story is the first thing, and a great art team is a big boost, but you absolutely must have at least one comedic moment within the pages. When Spider-Man is involved, the writer has plenty of opportunities to make this happen. Throw in Power Man and Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Moon Knight, and the story has now the chances of being not only humorous, but also have pathos, and of course, altruism. Now, take all of those heroes, and add the nefarious Purple Man and the Kingpin of crime! Having these characters in the same book is all but a guarantee it will be good (it helps that the book is from a great era of comic books as well).

The name Frank Miller means different things to different people. Some immediately think of Daredevil (count me as one of them), some of The Dark Knight Returns. He’s done so much to transform the industry, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to appreciate fully the impact for years to come. He wrote this hilarious story (which shows he can do more than just gritty), and also penciled the cover, along with Josef Rubinstein on inks!  The interior art is by the team of Herb Trimpe (pencils) and Mike Esposito (inks). This was a very good team that is very rarely talked about, and that is a bit of a travesty. We see Diana Albers letters, and George Roussos on colors, as was the case with many books from this era (which gave an immense amount of consistency). Editing was none other than Tom Defalco (check out his work with Ron Frenz on Thor)!

 

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Marvel Tales #50, 1973 (Originally ASM #67, 1965) “To Squash A Spider!”

After recently purchasing this issue, I checked it out and knew I had to spotlight it for everyone to see! This story features a battle between Spidey and Mysterio! We now know that his forté is illusions, but back then, it wasn’t common knowledge. The story shows a miniature version of Spidey (six inches tall), having to fight his way through a fun house, all the while Mysterio is trying to kill him! There is some back matter as well. We see Joe Robertson having some issues with his son, and Gwen and her father, Captain Stacy. Great stuff, as the real world touches are what made Marvel tops!

For those that love to denounce Stan “The Man” Lee (writer), ponder this for a moment. While it seems as though he’s given himself too much credit in the actual creation of Marvel’s Silver Age explosion, I don’t think you can take away the consistency of his scripting, and his exuberance in the real “selling” of comic books. John “Ring-a-Ding” Romita (pencils) is one of the all-time greats of the industry. His romance work, inking, covers, and of course, his work on The Amazing Spider-Man are second to none. The inks (and finishes?) are by another familiar name from the Silver/Bronze Age in Jim “Madman” Mooney. Throw in good old Artie Simek (letters), and that rounds out this awesome team of creators!

 

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Marvel Two-in-One #87, 1982 “Menace of the Microworld!”

I figured with Ant-Man still on people’s minds, we could journey into the past, and check out an appearance of this eccentric character. Not only do you get him, but also the blue-eyed Thing! The Thing gets sucked into a Microverse, and it’s up to Ant-Man (with an assist by Reed Richards) to bring him back in one piece. But what if Ben doesn’t want to come back? Just think about it for a minute. What if Ben is whisked away to a world where he’s adored, and not feared? Would anyone want to come back to a world where you feel tormented?

This was a great phase of this title, when you had regular artists like “Rampaging” Ron Wilson (pencils) and “Cheerful” Chic Stone (inks) bringing you fantastic interior work. Still fairly young in his Marvel career (but not comics in general), Tom Defalco (writer) gives us a solid story that emphasizes what Ben Grimm is really all about. Colors are by Christie Scheele, letters by Rick Parker and Michael Higgins. The editor is one that was an absolute rock for Marvel throughout the years, Mr. Jim Salicrup!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)

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Title: Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

Distributor: Amicus Productions/Regal Film Distributors

Writer: Milton Subotsky

Director: Freddie Francis

Producers: Milton Subotsky, Max Rosenberg

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Donald Sutherland, Michael Gough, Ann Bell

Released: February 1965

MPAA: UR

 

As I promised recently, I wanted to take a look at another Amicus film, to give them their due! In this anthology film, we get a cast that rivals just about anything else in the genre at this period in time. And not just well established guys either, you get a few fresh faces that ascend to rather steep heights.

Although Amicus didn’t have the sheer volume of films as say, Hammer Studios, but their impact certainly made them the main rival to Hammer, especially for the simple fact that they were able to steal most of their actors and actresses (not really steal; the actors weren’t under exclusive contracts and didn’t make a ton of money and simply had to make a living). Seeing the faces of the perennial favorites will easily get you in the mood as soon as they appear on-screen. Well, let’s get down to business!

 

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As the scene unfolds, we see a busy train yard in England. One man is already aboard, and looking at a doll that he’s purchased for his daughter. Just then, another man enters the car, followed by four more. The last man, who introduces himself as Dr. Schreck (Peter Cushing), is a bit odd but friendly nonetheless. One of the men to enter the car, is renowned musical critic, Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee). He seems very uptight, and quite like a curmudgeon. Dr. Schreck falls asleep, and his carry-on bag falls over. The contents fall all over the floor, and the men help him gather his things. One man notices his a deck of cards, and Marsh identifies them as Tarot cards. He tells the other men that the cards can tell the future, and that he’s willing to use his talents to show them theirs!

 

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The first one to volunteer, Jim Dawson  (Neil McCallum), is shown how he’ll  be trying to buy back an ancestral home that has fallen out of the family. There are a couple of mysterious figures about the house (a couple of familiar faces in Katy Wild – The Evil of Frankenstein, and Peter Madden- Frankenstein Created Woman, Kiss of the Vampire), and they act very suspiciously. Jim eventually wants to see the basement and after procuring the key from the old man of the house, he heads downstairs. He bangs on the walls with a crowbar (yeah, that is weird), and accidentally bashes in some plaster. He finds a coffin and the old man tells him that it’s the coffin of Count Cosmo Valdemar, a nobleman that owned the house previous to Jim’s family, and swore vengeance against them if he was ever revived!

 

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The second tale is about Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman), and his family. He and his family are living the mundane life until one day, while doing yard work, they attempt to cut down a mysterious vine that’s begun growing along the house. The vine seems to “fight back,” and Bill is flabbergasted. He takes his story to a couple of scientist friends of his who initially seem skeptical. Eventually though, one of them comes to the house after not only a dog, but a friend is seemingly murdered by the vines.

The third story involves Biff Bailey (Roy Castle), who’s a musician that gets a gig in the West Indies. He’s doing his thing one night, and a local who sings at the same club tells him of the voodoo ceremonies that go on at night. Biff is intrigued, and sets out to watch. He does just that and attempts to write the music to use for his own personal gain. The voodoo priest stops him, but Biff remembers the tune. When he goes back to London, strange things that cannot be explained begin to plague his life.

 

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The fourth installment features Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee) who has shown great disdain for the good Doctor and the notion that any of this is plausible. We watch as Mr. Marsh, who’s pretty much a self-centered jackass, rips apart an artist, Eric Landor (Michael Gough). Landor gives it right back to Marsh and gets some slight revenge by showing Marsh for the conceited jerk he really is and making a monkey out of him. Marsh gets so angry, that when he sees Landor in the streets, he runs him over with his motorcar! Landor’s one hand gets severed, but lets just say that it isn’t the last we or Marsh see of it!

 

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The penultimate act (but the last “story” in the film) is about Dr. Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) and his new bride, Nicolle (Jenifer Jayne – The Trollenberg Terror). The area that they live is being terrorized by a vampire, and it’s up to Dr. Carroll and his friend, Dr. Blake (Max Adrian), to find the culprit and put an end to its reign of terror! That might prove to be quite a problem though when Dr. Carroll finds out who the vampire is!

The last scene in the film is a very good twist, so I’ll stop here, but needless to say, it involves Dr. Schreck and the men in the train car.

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Listen, I’ve stated many times that anthologies really aren’t my cup of tea. That said, this is one that is so good, I’d recommend it to anyone. The beginning and ending sequences in the train car is very solid with dialogue and mood. As for the stories, I’ve already gone into enough detail about them individually, so I’ll just say that the voodoo story and the disembodied hand are the better of the lot. Not to dismiss the others (Donald Sutherland is also very good), but those are tops.

Cushing doesn’t have a ton of screen time, but his ability to creep people out is on full display in this flick. The make-up is kind of cheesy, and unnecessary in my humble opinion, but whatever. The music score is moderate, the sets are very mediocre, but the film is about atmosphere, mood, and pacing, which are all top-notch as far as they can be on a limited budget as was the case with Amicus Productions.

Any horror fan needs to cross this one (sorry, can’t help it with the puns now and again) off their list. Even if you’re like me and don’t love anthologies, the film certainly deserves a viewing or two.

 

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Click here for the trailer!

The Incredible Hulk #300, 1984 “Days of Rage!”

The Hulk has had his ups and downs, as far as sales, and even in the overall quality of the work on the character over the years.  He’s an interesting character with the dual-identity, that gives authors many different angles with which to attack a story. In this anniversary issue, we see nothing but the monster, as Nightmare has forced Bruce Banner away, and nothing remains but the mindless beast! We all know that The Hulk is a bad mutha, and he gets tested by SHIELD, Power Man and Iron Fist, and even The Avengers! Thor manages to battle him to a standstill, but even he can’t put him away. The planet’s last hope is the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange!

The visual feast that this issue is, was brought to us by “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils) and Gerry Talaoc (inker). Add on the colors by Bob Sharen, and you will read this book and think…”wow, they don’t make them like this anymore!” Seeing all these heroes battling an enraged monster is quite a delight. The the writer, Bill Mantlo, certainly needs no intro. His work is nothing short of legendary! Last but not least, we have Jim Novak on letters! (Cover by Brett Blevins!)

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Cinema Sunday: Night of The Eagle (1962)

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Title: Night of the Eagle (A.K.A. Burn, Witch, Burn!)

Distributor: AIP (U.S.)

Writers: Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, George Baxt (screenplay)- Fritz Lieber (novel- Conjure Wife)

Director: Sidney Hayers

Producers: Julian Wintle, Leslie Parkyn

Starring: Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair, Margaret Johnston, Anthony Nicholls, Colin Gordon

Released: May 1962

MPAA: Pg-13 (est.)

 

This week’s film will be a quick dip back in the pool of American International Pictures (AIP) library (by way of the U.K.’s Anglo Amalgamated)! I don’t recall how I found out about this film, but I’m glad I did! The pluses outweigh the minuses by a long shot in this one, and for a budget of $200k, they did an admirable job! The cast was relatively new to me and that can sometimes but slightly off-putting to me, but not this time around. I’ll grant you that the name of the film doesn’t sound very scary, and this might be a case of the Americanized name being better, but who knows. Alright, now that the intro is over, let’s hit the pavement, or eagles nest, I guess…

 

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At the ritzy medical college of Hempnell, we see an instructor, Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde), telling his students that superstitions are nothing but a bunch of poppycock. One student in particular, Margaret Abbott (Judith Stott), seems to be quite smitten with him, and asks about personal superstitions, like walking under a ladder, and the like.  He dismisses them as well, and tells the students not to believe any of it. Class ends, and then that same female student stays after class for a moment. Another student, Fred Jennings (Bill Mitchell), doesn’t hand in his paper, and Taylor threatens to have him thrown out of the class. Later, out in the hallway, Jennings threatens Margaret, because of jealousy.

 

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Norman arrives home and his wife, Tansy (Janet Blair), greets him after she’s just returned home from spending some time at their cottage. She complains about having to spend the evening with the others. but Norman convinces her it will be fine. Later that night, as the game of bridge is underway, as a couple of others have joined. One person in particular seems to be very interested in the new couple (Norman and Tansy are new to the school), and why everything seems to go their way. Norman remarks that Tansy is his good luck charm, and again, Flora Carr (Margaret Johnston) gets a peculiar look on her face.

 

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The evening ends, everyone leaves, but Tansy seems troubled. She begins to rummage through the home as if she’s lost something. When Norman asks her about it, she claims she’s looking for the grocery list, but it’s obviously a lie. Norman heads upstairs for bed and Tansy promises to be up soon. She stays to keep looking for something though. As Norman opens a drawer he discovers something in the corner. A small box he doesn’t recognize is in it, and when he opens it, a dead spider falls out. Tansy bursts in the room, and Norman wants an explanation. She tells him that last year when they were on holiday in Jamaica, a local gave it to her for a souvenir. He accepts her story, then they go to sleep. Tansy awakens though, and you can tell that something is bothering her. She finds a type of voodoo doll tied to a lampshade, and immediately takes it down, pulls it apart, then burns it, in some type of ceremonial act.

 

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The following day, Norman is typing away, and the dry cleaner comes a knocking. He lets him in and grabs a few articles of clothing. He pricks his hand on something inside a shirt, and after searching, he finds a small envelope of some substance. He immediately heads upstairs to search the rest of the bedroom. The entire house is then searched and he finds dozens of relics, charms and all sorts of the things he teaches against in his classroom. It finally hits him, his wife is a mystic.

 

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Tansy then returns home, and sees that one of her charms by the front door is missing. Upon entering the home, she sees that all of her things have been laid out on the table. The couple argues, as they’re both on opposite sides of the fence on the subject. She explains that she did it for him, and it was for protection. He can’t believe it, and tries to force her to destroy the items. She warns him that the reason she got into all of this was because when they were on holiday in Jamaica, he almost died from an accident, but a local shaman showed her how to revive him. Norman refuses to believe such rubbish, and then tells her she must give it up. She watches in disbelief, as Norman throws all of her charms, protections, etc. into the fireplace. He asks her one last time if that’s everything, and she then pulls out a locket, that has his picture, along with a charm of some sort. He even tosses that in, including his own picture! Tansy freaks out, and then after she calms down, a bit, she goes upstairs to bed. Norman then receives a phone call, and initially the caller says nothing, but then he hears someone breathing and then the female voice begins to talk dirty to him. He demands to know who it is, but the woman just keeps on going. He slams the phone down, and then heads up to bed.

 

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Almost immediately, things begin to go awry for Norman (like almost getting run over by a truck, being accused of raping a student). Was Tansy and her magic protecting them from sinister forces that lurk around everyone? Or is someone behind the events that are just beginning to plague the happy couple? Watch to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This one flew under my radar, as I’m sure it has for most, but let me tell you something. Get it on your radar now! The two leads (and the villain), are absolutely fantastic! Not a lot of bells and whistles with this film, and the “special effects” are just moderate at best (there are only a couple). The sets are average as well, but again, that’s not the driving force behind this one. The cinematography (Reginald Wyer), did an outstanding job, and should be praised. The music score (William Alwyn) was also very good, bringing the viewer up and down like a roller-coaster.

The screenplay has three credits, but when you see the name Richard Matheson (Last Man on Earth, The Night Stalker),  you should know it is one of legend. His written work along with his TV and film work is also full of solid stuff. The usual gang from AIP was involved as well, and those guys, even with their cheesy reputation, always manage to get it done. Definitely look this one up around the web, because you’ll enjoy it!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

What If? #11, 1978 “The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become The FF?”

I’ll admit, I really don’t care for “What If?” and you can dislike me for it. They can be fun, oh yes, but it just isn’t what I’m looking for in a comic book. That said, when you get a chance to grab an issue like this one, you cannot possibly pass it up! Seeing Lee and Kirby as Reed and the Thing, is enormous fun, and throw in Sol Brodsky as the Human Torch, and “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg as the Invisible Girl, and the book has to be a good one!

To see the pencils of Jack “King” Kirby, is nothing short of fascinating, no matter what the subject-matter. As the writer, penciler, and editor, he really went all in with this book, and gave us something special. The inks were by Mike Royer, and if you’ve seen their collaboration on DC comics “The Demon,” you know what they can do together. The letters were by Bill Wray and colors by Carl Gafford. If you get the chance, grab a copy if for nothing other than the Kirby artwork, it’s astonishing!

 

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The Incredible Hulk Annual #6, 1977 “Beware The Beehive!”

This recent grab was…grabbed mostly for one reason- the appearance of Dr. Strange! Not that I don’t like the Hulk, I do, just more so in the pages of books like The Defenders, and The Avengers. I also love the “Beehive” and their insidious plots! In their second attempt at creating a god-like being, they unleash an even more powerful creature that initially tries to kill Dr. Strange! The old Doc has a difficult time with the man-made entity, but the Jade Giant is on his way to smash!

With a plot by editor, Len Wein, David Anthony Kraft (writer) gives us a story that is fairly simplistic but also solid in its delivery. No frills, just a slight mystery followed by straight up action! The art work by Herb Trimpe (pencils, the interiors and cover), Frank Giacoia (inks) and Mike Esposito (inks), give the reader a less rigid look than you typically get from Trimpe pencils (he usually has a more block-style, a la Kirby), and the inkers get credit for that, no doubt about it. Colors by Janice Cohen, and letters by Gaspar, round out the team!

 

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