Though we have a general consensus that the Star-lord Special Edition by Claremont and Byrne is one of the awesomest Bronze Age comics, Star-lord fans know a few gems awaiting those who dig deeper. Consider this origin story by the prolific Doug Moench. And dig that opening splash panel by Tom Sutton!
Do you absolutely desire your own copy printed on tree corpses? You can buy Star-lord’s origin in Marvel Spotlight #6; Marvel Comics, 1980. Oh, the scent of vintage paper!
We’ve always had a fondness for the Inhumans as characters and concepts despite the lackluster treatment they often receive in print. The Inhumans first appeared as supporting characters in the Fantastic Four when creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby still masterminded that title together. In 1970, Kirby launched Inhumans on their own adventures in Marvel’s second attempt at an Amazing Adventures title.
Beginning with a new #1 issue — something that seems a monthly event at Marvel these days — the 1970 Amazing Adventures put both the Inhumans and the Black Widow on the cover. The Black Widow stories have some wonderful John Buscema and Gene Colan artwork you can preview at Diversions of the Groovy Kind.
Even the Mandarin appears in these Amazing Adventures, in his utterly ridiculous “Asian Villain” outfit! The Inhumans made it about sixteen issues in this format, with Roy Thomas and Neal Adams stepping up to create new stories after Kirby left. But like Thomas & Adams’ X-men, the Inhumans were doomed as a publication.
Okay. Not exactly doomed. They got their own title after that! Leaving behind the anthology comic format, the Inhumans had earned their own shot as title characters. Doug Moench and George Perez launched them with Inhumans #1 in 1975. We have that first issue in our archives, too: Spawn of Alien Heat!
That series showed a lot of potential, but its struggle to find its feet is almost palpable. You can find it reprinted in a hardcover format as Marvel Masterworks: Inhumans #2 from 2010, the first volume of which covers all those Amazing Adventures stories plus their origin story from Thor.
Marvel billed the Inhumans as “uncanny” in this series, a word they would later apply to the X-men. The “Uncanny X-men” stuck, and few readers of bronze-age Marvel recall anyone but the X-men ever being uncanny! Gil Kane moved from cover art to interior art in this series. Although his style seems rough after Perez’s smooth work, Kane delivers some truly classic 70s work in stories like “A Trip to the Doom” in issue #7.
In what now feels like a desperate ploy to boost sales, the Inhumans fight Hulk in their final issue. The same thing happened to Kirby’s Eternals in the mid-70s. Bad sales figures? Hulk Smash! “Let Fall the Final Fury” turns out to be the last appearance of the Inhumans in their own title for about 25 years.
Despite some great guest appearances in John Byrne’s Fantastic Four in the 1980s, the Inhumans never really got a stellar treatment until Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee crafted a twelve-issue limited series for them in the 21st century. We have some of that artwork in our archives. The Inhumans live up to their potential in this compelling story, despite its reliance on the same old struggle with Maximus the Mad.
The four-issue Inhumans series by Carlos Pacheco earlier that summer had some stunning art by Ladronn. It attempted to free the Inhumans from the only two stories they ever seemed to get: the fight with Black Bolt’s mad brother, and their thing about needing to live on the moon. Pacheco stepped in and said, “Let’s shake this up a bit,” taking their conceptual struggles in the next logical plot direction.
But, in the wake of the Jenkins/Lee story, Marvel decided on a “next generation” approach to the Inhumans. The book became more teen-friendly and introduced a new, younger set of Inhumans characters, some of whom we met in Jenkin’s story. This 2003 Inhumans series ran for twelve issues. It has its merits and perhaps competed at the time with Marvel’s Runaways and Exiles for a teen audience wanting teen characters. Of those three, only Runaways kept our attention, proving to be a book about teens that older audiences could appreciate, too.
And that, dear Martians, is why some lucky buyer overseas ended up with a stack of Inhumans comics from us! We collected those first Kirby issues, the run of their 1970s title, and the Jenkins/Lee paperback, along with some other minor Inhumans goodies from over the years. It was fun to have them all close at hand for a few years, and we did hold on to our single-issue copies of the Jenkins stories.
One of our earliest childhood friends was a huge Moon Knight fan, so let’s have a look at some highlights of the series from the 1980s. The first issue declares the “macabre” Moon Knight, and elements of the supernatural and spooky would remain an integral part of the character. “Macabre” may be overstating the horror element, but you know how bronze age Marvel thrived on alliteration!
The artwork is nowhere nearly as experimental as what Bill Sienkiewicz later developed for books like Elektra: Assassin. We have heard Moon Knight compared to Batman, and Sienkiewicz delivers a style that seems well-suited to attracting a Batman audience accustomed to the classic work of Neal Adams and Marshal Rogers. Sienkiewicz shows an early flair for dramatic layouts and panel shapes, as these pages show.
Doug Moench cranks up the macabre in issue #12 by introducing Morpheus, a walking nightmare with a face only his mother could love and lots of icky black goo. This otherworldly menace gives Sienkiewicz a license to get weird, with dark and dramatic renditions of creepy interiors and conflicts.
The energetically odd-shaped panels remind us of Neal Adams’ work on the X-Men during his brief stint with Roy Thomas on the title. In a 2001 interview with Comic Book Resources, Bill admitted his fascination with Adams’ style: “Studying Neal’s work… I became obsessed… and became fixated on it. It was like my intention was to be Neal… There was no one at this point saying don’t do that, you’ve got to be your own person… When I finally got started, what got me hired was the fact that I drew like Neal. Neal in fact called up Shooter and said, ‘I’ve got this kid fresh off the street and he draws like me. Is that a problem?'”
Next up, let’s have a look inside issue #15. This one is so insane: something about white supremacists breeding rats in army helmets, and then a giant talking rat-man named Xenos shows up to assassinate a politician with a gun. WHAT?
But, #15 also has some cool ‘Moon Knight Files’ that discuss his weapons and origin and his different personalities. Though not as kooky as the Badger, Moon Knight had a thing about his identity. “Shades of Moon Knight” by Doug Moench also tells us about the development of the character as a concept.
Of all the issues we’ve read of this series, #24 stands out the most in terms of art and story. Focusing Moon Knight on crime takes him out of the spandex-clad superhero vibe and gives us some powerful human drama, masterfully rendered by Sienkiewicz. Let’s just look at the opening pages from this mini-masterpiece. Sienkiewicz treats us to visually appealing ‘stained glass window’ shapes, lots of dark shadows defining people and spaces, and great depictions of Moon Knight in stark black-and-white.
Pretty awesome, huh? If the whole series had been this intense, we might have tried to fill in every issue in our set!
We also dig this illustration from a subscription ad that portrays Moon Knight in an iconic pose rendered entirely in black and white. This needs to be a poster! More dramatic black-and-white Moon Knight art appears in an ad for #25.
Before we go on, let’s pause for the sake of interested collectors. You can collect these 1980s issues very inexpensively as the single issues of Moon Knight Volume 1, or in the black and white reprint Essential Moon Knight. Essential Moon Knight covers, in three volumes, all kinds of early Moon Knight stories, the Moench run, the first six issues from the second series, and more! Don’t forget the Moon Knight Special Edition, which reprints on higher-quality paper the early back up stories from The Hulk. Now let us move forward in time to the short-lived Moon Knight Volume Two!
Marvel cancelled the title and brought it back in a second volume with a new creative team, printing “Fist of Konshu: Moon Knight” on the cover. Frankly, we don’t understand why. It doesn’t have a significantly different vibe from volume one, and it revisits the themes of ancient Egypt and Morpheus in its early issues. We get a hint that Moon Knight’s split personality and new relationship with his power source will be a focus of the series, but it isn’t all that different from before.
The Morpheus tale in #3 really is creepy, but Marvel’s “new” printing process makes the colors decidedly garish to our eyes. (We processed them here to look a little more normal.) Many books circa 1985 had this look, and we don’t like it any better now than we did then. It seemed like an attempt to move into today’s high-quality formats, but without really having a clue how that would work. Despite this harsh judgment, we dig the disturbing nightmare worlds created for some criminally insane residents of the institution! Totally twisted.
The new creative team finds its feet in the first few issues, but then the book gets passed around. In #5, Jo Duffy gives us a morally grey tale where Moon Knight may or may not be in the right when he tries to stop a murder.
Issue #6 sports one of our all-time favorite Moon Knight covers, a wonderfully painted and suitably spooky scene. James “Priest” Owsley steps in for a tale that ends our collection. Moon Knight jumps through a closed window and then hugs a crack whore before busting out of some chains in classic superhero style. All in a day’s work!
Priest gave us some memorable stories in the 80s and our favorite Black Panther story more recently before moving out of comics and on to other endeavors. We also moved on to other things besides Moon Knight at this point in our early teenage collector days. The second series was cancelled after just six issues. What was the point of the reboot? We don’t know.
But, we have always had a fondness for the character, probably because he just looks so awesome when drawn well: the white cloak, the ankh, the face shrouded in darkness. We can’t help but wish that Sienkiewicz had some day returned to the character with his more lavishly abstract style, loaded with shadows and supernatural weirdness. Moon Knight works best the farther he gets away from standard superhero fare and off into the world of madness, mystics, and dreams.
Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe present a Godzilla tale that involves not one but TWO scenes of glorious ascension for our beloved mutant reptile. Yes, they involve spaceships and aliens. But, surely no religious zealot ever thrilled to the Ascension of their icons any more than we thrilled to see Godzilla lifted into the psychedelic skies. No heaven awaits our fire-breathing hero — only giant monster battles in space, fueled by rage and an animalistic need for territorial dominion. Now unleash the Beta Beast!
Marvel gave the Inhumans their own series more than once over the years. The Inhumans first had their own series in 1975 with author Doug Moench leading the charge. Moench used several devices which have formed the core of many Inhumans stories to come later: the destruction of their home Attilan, being at odds with the rest of Marvel’s characters, and Jack Kirby’s device of Maximus the Mad throwing a monkey wrench into every situation.
Gil Kane crafted the covers and provided some of the interior art. But the art of George Perez got this series off the ground. Here, Perez develops what would soon become the distinctive style of his Teen Titans at DC Comics.
The pages of many of these early Inhumans stories seem cramped. Perhaps Moench’s scripts were so jam-packed with information that Kane and Perez had trouble finding room on the pages to tell the whole story. Perez would later find a way to put just as much detail on the page without seeming pressed for breathing room.
The Inhumans shine in science-fiction tales like issues #7-8, where they get involved in a inter-species battle on another planet. The insect-shaped ship where people have lived for centuries shows Moench’s sci-fi genius at work. Too often, the Inhumans succumb to well-worn superhero tropes such as fighting costumed bad guys who refer to themselves in the third person. At those times, they’re just another ho-hum Bronze Age bore. Based on some of the daring plot moves he makes, we suspect Moench wanted to really re-invigorate and re-imagine the Inhumans but got stuck in the rut of trying to sell a superhero book.
That’s less than our typically enthusiastic exuberance, so let’s just say that half of this series rocks and half of it doesn’t. If Moench and Perez had just spent a litle more time inhaling the Terrigen Mists, we might have had a sci-fi masterwork on our hands!
Collector’s Guide: From Inhumans #1; Marvel, 1975. Reprinted in Marvel Masterworks Inhumans #2, hard cover; Marvel, 2010.
In Godzilla #22, Godzilla joins forces with Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur and his pal Moon Boy. In the previous issue, Devil and Godzilla met, tussled, and became friends. This issue, dated May 1979, hit the stands five months after the end of Devil Dinosaur’s short-lived series. Author Doug Moench clearly needed more Devil Dinosaur – and who doesn’t?
You might ask, “How are Godzilla and Devil Dinosaur the same size? Isn’t Godzilla ‘up from the depths, thirty stories high’ as the cartoon theme song says?” Right you are! This story takes place during a plotline where the King of the Monsters got hit with a shrinker-izer to whittle him down to more manageable size. At one point, he was small enough to go toe-to-toe with a vicious sewer rat!
You’ll notice the effects begin to wear off in this tale. There go the property values! Plus, the device which threw Godzilla back in time to meet Devil begins to backfire. You no doubt recognize that glowing white square… It’s Dr. Doom’s time machine! What would the Bronze Age be without that thing?
Artists Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel craft a double-splash for pages two and three that echoes Jack Kirby. Moench also throws in some lesser-known parts of Devil’s world, like the old hag and the pits from Devil Dinosaur #9. These are the same pits that took Devil through time in his own final issue!
For escapist fiction, it just doesn’t get any cooler than seeing Devil Dinosaur and Godzilla cutting loose in a whirlwind of dinosaur battles. On a more analytical note, Moench contrasts the worlds of two boys. Rob Takiguchi, in 1979, has a soft spot for Godzilla. The boy always takes the monster’s side. He feels we haven’t taken the time to really understandGodzilla. But, the adults in Rob’s life constantly undermine this potential friendship. They trap Godzilla, shoot him, send him back in time – always some sinister grown-up plan! Rob lives in a state of sadness and rebellion as he struggles to build a rapport with Godzilla. The adults treat Rob like a schmuck, perpetually disregarding his feelings.
Moon Boy has everything Takiguchi could wish for. Although he and Devil often battle nasty adults, Moon Boy’s bond with his reptilian ally is firmly established. The adults may be adversaries, but they have absolutely no authority over him – big difference! Moon Boy knows complete freedom to make his own decisions. Plus, Devil Dinosaur embodies all the good that Rob seeks in Godzilla: strength, loyalty, protection, power, and friendship.
Yes, if we had written our own ending to this tale, it would have been a happy one. Rob would go back in time with Godzilla. Godzilla would stay Devil-sized. The two boys and their reptiles would become fast friends, roaming the Late Cretaceous as they pleased. And, everything would be drenched in rampaging dinosaurs and Kirby Krackle.
Of all the battles Doug Moench dreamed up for Godzilla, this vicious struggle with a sewer rat remains our favorite. What’s that?Godzilla’s bigger than a rat? Yes, he is, Martian! But check it out: the super-duper grown-ups nailed the King of the Monsters with a shrinker-izer that made him easier to handle. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of messed-up thing an adult would do to your huge green buddy? How is he supposed to annihilate civilization at that size?!?
But we digress… Suffice to say, Godzilla doesn’t take any crap from this rat — although there’s plenty of it floating in the water! Yuck! Let’s check out the way Herb Trimpe draws this slimy saga of savage sewage supremacy.
The slumbering leviathan known as Godzilla awakes and rises from the sea off the shores of Alaska. This reptilian titan left Japan devastated and now makes his way to America. Godzilla swings a tail that can smash mountains to dust. He breathes fires born of the Atomic Age. Is there anything that can stop the monster’s rampage?
2022 Update: This was the first post here at Mars Will Send No More, way back in January 2011. Since then, the scans I painstakingly made for it somehow became FUBAR; so, eleven years later, I pilfered some pirate scans from the web to restore this post to its former glory. Along the way, I re-discovered that the letters page contains the Mole Man Value Stamp, which later became the avatar for our blogging buddy Paul at Longbox Graveyard — a truly historic comics coincidence!
That being said, Russ Heath‘s dinosaur artwork in Wizard of Forgotten Flesh speaks for itself. Dig his splash panel for page one.
Here is a the five-page sequence where Ka-zar and his buddies harness a Triceratops. They ride it into a river where they wage battle against the evil cult of serpent people.
Gotta admit: I love Zabu, the sabre-tooth tiger. One of my favorite scenes in any superhero book is Zabu and Wolverine having a conversation in animal language. That was Uncanny X-Men #116, when Chris Claremont and John Byrne took the X-men to Ka-zar’s home, the Savage Land.
Anyway, these serpent cultists are up to no good and using some ancient skull to give them power to enslave the tattooed guy’s people. The good guys free the prisoners, but the serpent priestess invokes skull power. With that power, she raises the dead to life to be her unholy soldiers.
This is a fun issue. It transplants some of the best 1970s Conan and Kull cliches and male-bonding adventures into a world of dinosaurs, and the artwork makes the script come to life. Unfortunately, it was only a fill-in from Russ Heath, and he would not again grace the pages of this series.
Collector’s Guide: From Ka-Zar #12, Marvel Comics, 1974.