Halloween Scene: A 70s Marvel 5-Pack!

Back in the day, I used to do recurring posts here on UM called The Box wherein I would grab some random comics from a huge box my inlaws gave me and give them a read. I thought it would be fun to do something similar, but with a somewhat narrower focus on horror comics from those same boxes (though now they have a special place on my comic shelves). As it turned out, I had a bunch of 70s Marvel horror comics, so I jumped right in with those! Horror had a nice resurgence at this time because the Comics Code loosened some of its restrictions. In these five comics I’ve got Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Son of Satan and all sorts of anthology tales!

I started off with Marvel Team-Up #15 starring Spidey and the Spirit of Vengeance! Written by Len Wein and drawn by Ross Andru, this issue finds Mary Jane taking Peter out to Madison Square Garden to see Ghost Rider’s Motorcycle Extravaganza. During the show, The Orb attacks and the Web-Slinger jumped in to help out, which means, yes, you get to see Spider-Man riding a motorcycle which is very cool!

This was a fun read that definitely held some surprises for me. This is one of Johnny Blaze’s first dozen or so appearances, which is cool. I know a bit about the character, but had no idea that he toured the country AS Ghost Rider! It was also cool seeing The Orb’s debut here because one of my favorite current writers, Jason Aaron, has used him (or a version of him, I’m not sure) in both his incredible Ghost Rider run AND Original Sin! I don’t have a lot of experience with Marvel Team-Up, but I’m always down to read an issue when it’s super fun like this!

In addition to creating new horror-based characters in the 70s, Marvel also repackaged many of their anthology pieces from the pre-Silver Age horror and sci-fi days. That’s what you have with Vault Of Evil #19. Sometimes these feel slapped together, but I actually really enjoyed this mix of tales.

You’ve got an old school mummy story, one about a guy dimension-hopping and another about a prisoner discovering his cellmate can create anything he can think of! And the finale features a very cool first-person witch yarn! Sure these had all been published before, but they were new to me!

From there, I checked out Steve Gerber and Mike Ploog’s Man-Thing #6! I had a good time with all of these comics, but this one was the best. Gerber’s an absolute master of showing and dealing with the traumas of everyday life in this story about a sad repressed boy who became a clown and eventually made his way to Man-Thing’s swamp to kill himself. The tale itself finds those present when he died cast in actors reenacting his life for cosmic critics to judge.

In addition to reminding me of Gerber’s horror greatness (which also hit me when I read his Superman: Phantom Zone trade), this single issue reminded me that I finally need to sit down and read his entire run on the character. I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on this character in a macro sense and while focusing on specific issues, but I really need to put the whole epic in my brain.

Up next I read another of the anthology repackages in Tower Of Shadows #6. The first one, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko presages a few ideas Lee would play with down the line in the form of a spy who can shrink down and regrow by taking a pill. The middle entry is actually a Wally Wood fantasy thing starring Beowulf, unfortunately, this is a genre I do not enjoy, so I mostly looked at the (I’m sad to say) unremarkable art.

Tom Suton does a fun 2-page alien story and then you get Steve Skeates and Gene Colan thriller revolving around a deranged sound man who will hurt, maim or kill to get those sweet sound effects for movies (which echoed interestingly off of It’s All Connected entry Blow Out!). Better yet, this one begins with Colan drawing himself at his board talking and working on THIS STORY.

Finally, I read Daimon Hellstrom’s second showcase in Marvel Spotlight #13 by Mike Friedrich (who also created Ghost Rider) and Herb Trimpe. In this one, Daimon Hellstrom knows his dad is the devil and has returned to his castle where he fights a demon and then reflects back on how his mom fell for the devil and married him (a detail that made me laugh), a union that resulted in him and his sister. He then recalls in own life and how he found out his true nature, making me wonder what was actually in the previous appearances and how much of this one recaps of those.

Along similar lines to the Man-Thing issue, this one made me want to go through and read all of these Son Of Satan issues and then his stint on the Defenders under Gerber’s watch. There’s a nice Son Of Satan Classic collection that I might have to get my hands on!

This was a fun little experiment for Halloween. It was nice to finally go through some of these issues from those boxes, but it was also cool to just have a stack of random comics sitting around that I could pick up at my leisure and go through!

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