Comic Review: The Monster of Frankenstein

Published: 1973-1974
Written by: Gary Friedrich, Bill Mantlo, Doug Moench
Art by: Bob Brown, John Buscema, Val Mayerik, Don Perlin, Mike Ploog
Based on: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Marvel Comics, 533 Pages

Review:

After reading the first big collection of Marvel Comics’ The Tomb of Dracula, I wanted to check out some of their other horror titles that are based off of classic monsters. So naturally, their ’70s Frankenstein series seemed like the next one I should read.

From the start, this was a pretty cool series. It initially starts way back in the original era of Frankenstein’s Monster but it moves through time with each story arc, bringing the lovable brute into more modern times by the end.

My favorite arc within the series was near the middle and it featured the Monster meeting Dracula. Now I wasn’t 100 percent clear as to whether I was supposed to interpret the character as Marvel’s Dracula or not. I’d assume so, despite the ending making me question it. But the reason why I see him as the same character is because Frankenstein’s Monster also crosses over with the Marvel superhero universe, which links the characters and puts both of them in Marvel canon, officially.

The only real down side to this series was that it switched artists and writers a lot. Now most of the stories were good and the art was always cool but it felt like it lacked cohesion and fluidity because of this. Three writers and five main artists over just eighteen issues is a lot.

Still, if ’70s Marvel horror is your thing and you haven’t read these comics yet, you might want to pick them up at some point.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula series, as well as Werewolf by Night and The Living Mummy comics.

Comic Review: Super-Villains Unite: The Complete Super-Villain Team-Up

Published: March 4th, 2015
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 458 Pages

Review:

This was a comic book series that I had wanted to read for a long time. I was collecting all of the single issues, in an effort to get the whole shebang before reading any of them, as I wanted the full experience.

However, I found the beefy collected edition at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet for like $4.95. So I couldn’t pass up that deal and because tracking down the whole series, as well as its crossovers was taking some time.

Anyway, this wasn’t exactly what I had hoped it was but it was still a really fun comic, especially as a fan of Doctor Doom, who is mostly the main character, alongside Namor, throughout the series’ run.

What I had hoped (or assumed) this was, was a book that put two villains together like a tag team in an effort to see them fight their regular nemeses. I expected more of a mix up of villains but the vast majority of this pairs Doom and Namor. And honestly, most of the time, they’re at odds with each other, so “team-up” isn’t all that accurate.

Other villains come into the series towards the end. We get to see Red Skull, Arnim Zola, The Hate-Monger, Magneto and a few others. But most of this is Doom having schemes that typically involve Namor. It pits them (well, mostly Doom) against superhero teams like The Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the ’70s version of The Champions but it also sees Doom come into conflict with other major villains.

For the most part, this is a really fun and energetic series that highlights what was great about ’70s Marvel. However, the series kept switching writers and artists and some of the issues aren’t nearly as great as the more solid ones.

It’s definitely better written in the first few issues, as those duties were handled by the great Roy Thomas. Towards the end, the book gets more exciting, as a lot of characters get wedged in but the earliest stories were just better written tales.

All in all, this is definitely worth picking up for those out there that are into ’70s Marvel and/or Doctor Doom. If you can find the collected trade paperback for as cheap as I got it, you should definitely pick it up and give it a shot.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the Avengers and Fantastic Four comics of the ’70s.

Comic Review: Conan the Barbarian: The Original Marvel Years Omnibus, Vol. 2

Published: August 6th, 2019
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: Gil Kane, John Buscema, Neal Adams, Rich Buckler
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 856 Pages

Review:

There’s not much I can say about how good this is that I didn’t say in the review for volume one. This is virtually more of the same but that’s a great thing.

Roy Thomas is still writing these stories and adapting the work of Robert E. Howard while mixing in his own original ideas that he keeps as close to the spirit of the source material as possible.

I did like the monsters in a lot of these stories more than the ones from the earliest issues, as they felt more imaginative and refined.

We also get a few stories that team-up Conan and Red Sonja again, which is something I’ve always loved and that we’ll never get to see again unless both heroes end up at the same publisher one day.

This collection is massive, beefy but none of it is dull, even if some one-off issues and adventures may start to feel a bit repetitive after awhile.

Conan is still a cool and engaging character, however, so even when the stories feel like they may be retreading something you’ve already read, Conan still makes it fun and worthwhile.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Conan and sword and sorcery comics penned by Roy Thomas.

Comic Review: Conan the Barbarian: The Original Marvel Years Omnibus, Vol. 1

Published: January 29th, 2019
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: Barry Windsor-Smith, Gil Kane, John Buscema
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 776 Pages

Review:

I read this collection of the first 26 issues of Marvel’s original Conan the Barbarian run because I had just read Roy Thomas’ book where he gives in-depth commentary on the first 51 issues.

Also, I’m a big Conan fan but I hadn’t read most of these issues yet, as some of the earliest ones are really expensive now and because I didn’t start collecting Conan comics until this series was well over a hundred issues. I wasn’t born until the very end of ’78 and didn’t really get into buying and collecting comics until ’89.

Anyway, this was really cool to read and just about every issue was a great story with superb art, whether it was the illustration work of Barry Smith, Gil Kane or John Buscema. The book is mostly dominated by the work of Smith and I found his art here to be some of his absolute best.

What’s especially neat about these stories is that some of them are actually adapted from the works of Robert E. Howard and some are original stories made to fit within Howard’s already established universe that predates the comics by about forty years.

Not all of the Howard material that was adapted was actually Conan stories, specifically. Some of them were taken from other characters like Howard’s Kull and then retrofitted into Conan tales.

This collection of issues includes some first appearances and a crossover as well. This is where we see evil sorcerer Thoth-Amon debut, as well as the most popular female sword and sorcery hero of all-time, Red Sonja. As for the crossover, in this book Conan meets Elric of Melniboné, a popular fantasy character that was created by Michael Moorcock in 1961. Elric has gone on to have his own multimedia franchise in the same vein as Conan.

The price tag on this omnibus is pretty hefty but it’s a 700-plus page hardcover and it still costs less than trying to round up all these issues, individually.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Conan and sword and sorcery comics penned by Roy Thomas.

Comic Review: Magik: Illyana and Storm

Published: December, 1983 – March, 1984
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Buscema, Ron Frenz, Sal Buscema, Tom Palmer, Glynis Wein

Marvel Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik is one of my favorite Marvel characters of all-time. I loved her in The New Mutants and in her many appearances since. I never read her origin story, however.

Before getting my hands on this series, I read The Uncanny X-Men #160, which bookends this miniseries. At the start of that story, Illyana is a small child. She gets caught on the other side of a portal. When the X-Men pull her through, just seconds later, she is seven years older. This miniseries fills in that seven year gap and shows how she went from just being a young mutant with teleportation abilities to a powerful sorceress with a magic sword.

Chris Claremont did a damn fine job with the story and each of the four issues were great from cover to cover. This also got away from standard Marvel fare and tapped into a tone and style that was much more in tune with hardcore fantasy fans of the ’80s.

This looks and feels like a comic set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, which was at a peak in popularity at the time. In fact, maybe I never got my hands on this comic because my mum was pretty adamant that playing Dungeons & Dragons with my cousins was going to punch my ticket to Hell. She’s less crazy about that stuff now and weirdly, she’s a big Harry Potter fan.

Anyway, this story kind of reminded me of how I felt when I used to watch the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon on Saturday mornings when my mum wasn’t paying attention to what I had on TV.

This story is pretty damn dark. While it is a coming of age story and very much written for a teen audience, Claremont’s greatness transcends that demographic and I think that most people that love ’80s X-Men or ’80s D&D will enjoy the hell out of this.

It does some really disturbing things to some of the core X-Men characters too. Kitty Pryde is transformed into a werecat creature and then dies, Storm is a badass sorceress and then dies, Nightcrawler is a demon slave and then dies, Colossus, who is Magik’s older brother, is found with his metal shell ripped open and yes… he’s also dead.

Illyana has to figure out her predicament, battle a powerful warlock, take his power and also fight several other demonic and magical forces. Ultimately, she becomes a demon goddess of the awesomest caliber. She may also have had the most screwed up childhood of any X-Men character that wasn’t present at the Holocaust.

I f’n loved this story. It also motivated me to get back into those early New Mutants tales, as it’s been a really long time since I’ve read them.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Uncanny X-Men #160, which bookends this story and the early New Mutants stuff featuring Magik as a member of the team.

Book Review: ‘How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way’ by Stan Lee & John Buscema

This book was a prized possession for me around the time I was ten or eleven. I think, at the time, that it was the only book I could find on the subject in a small Florida town in the days before the Internet and Amazon.

I once had aspirations of being a comic book artist though. I succeeded in my middle school years and put out some books after starting a company with some friends. We successfully sold a few dozen comics (per release) to other kids but being twelve in an era without Internet meant that you had to pound the pavement and things like school and chores often times got in the way.

This book taught me a lot at the time though.

If it wasn’t for this book, I wouldn’t have had as good of a grasp on drawing dynamic motion, shadowing, light and understanding perspective.

In some regard, this book is now dated but that is mostly due to the art style and some of the old school techniques that this teaches. It’s a very straight to basics book that came out before the digital era. Therefore, it doesn’t touch on modern techniques like creating comic book art digitally.

Still, this is a great starting point for anyone as the core things that this teaches are still necessary today.

In fact, many comic book pros could benefit from the lessons here as dynamic motion seems to be dying and perspective has been a bit wonky in several of the mainstream titles I’ve looked at lately.

If someone is serious about becoming a comic book artist and learning the craft, this should definitely have a place in their library. There are more up to date books on the subject that have come out over the years though. I plan to review some of them in the future but I wanted to go back and give respect to this one first, the O.G. comic book art manual.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel, Framed Ink, Figure Drawing for Comics and Graphic Novels, Cartooning: The Head & Figure and Realistic Figure Drawing.