Friday, October 10, 2008

Frightening First Fridays: Monsters Unleashed #1/First Comicbook Appearance of Solomon Kane

Today, we're taking a look at the first ish of one of my favorite Marvel Monster Mags featuring one of my favorite characters by two of my favorite authors (Who says this isn't the Groovy Age of self-indulgence?) as...
meets...
Yeah, back in 1973, Stan and the gang decided they would invade Jim Warren's territory and started up a line of black and white magazine-sized comics. According to Roy Thomas (in an interview in Comic Book Artist #13), "...Stan walked in and said, 'We're going to do two black and white horror books,' and the next morning he said, 'We're going to do three,' and then four..." I remember seeing promos in F.O.O.M. magazine for Vampire Tales, Tales of the Zombie, Dracula Lives, Haunt of Horror (a prose digest magazine), and my fave, Monsters Unleashed, so Roy's memory is probably pretty spot on. It wasn't long before non-horror mags started getting added to the list, Savage Tales, Planet of the Apes, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, Crazy...it was B&W comicbook heaven for a while, Groovesters!

Ahem, back to the topic of this post. Monsters Unleashed ran for 11 issues (Spring, 1973-January, 1975) and one annual (Summer, 1975). During its run it featured a few series, like the Frankenstein Monster, Man-Thing, Gullivar Jones Warrior of Mars, as well as short shockers and strips with characters from the color mags, like Tigra and Werewolf by Night. The stories and art were of high quality, mostly done by Bullpen regulars like Thomas, Doug Moench, Don McGregor, Steve Gerber, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Gary Friedrich, Tony Isabella, Steve Skeates, Chris Claremont, John Buscema, Gene Colan, Syd Shores, Val Mayerick, George Tuska, Klaus Janson, Don Perlin, Dave Cockrum, George Perez, Pat Broderick, and Neal Adams, as well as awesome artists from "across the water" like Tony DeZuniga, Sonny Trinidad, Vincente Alcazar, Sanho Kim, and Pablo Marcos. It was, indeed, a great mag.

MU didn't start off too shabby, either! Beneath that incredible Gray Morrow cover, the first issue includes a ton of far-out frighteners, like "The Man Who Cried Werewolf" (Gerry Conway and Pablo Marcos adapting a story by Robert [Psycho] Block), Marv Wolfman and Syd Shores' "The Thing in the Freezer", and the Gardner Fox/Roy Thomas/Gene Colan masterpiece, "World of Warlocks". But one story really blew me away back then. Man, it still blows me away! Yep, I'm finally gettin' around to what I was rappin' about at the top of this post ('bout time, huh?). Roy Thomas teamed up with former Wally Wood assistant, underground comics, National Lampoon, and paperback illustrator Ralph Reese on one of Robert E. Howard's earliest (and greatest) tales of terror, "Skulls in the Stars". Not only was "Skulls" a terrific tale on its own, it's even more important because it introduced the world to Solomon Kane, Howard's legendary Puritan hero. In ten short pages, Thomas and Reese captured the sheer terror of Howard's original prose and produced, what I believe to be, the true masterpiece of the whole Monsters Unleashed series. Dig in, baby!


1 comment:

  1. Monster's Unleashed!Man I loved those mags & miss them! loved Vampire Tales & Tales of the zombie as well. my favorite issue of Monster's Unleashed was issue#9. Featuring the wendigo, which only had a 10 page story. But had a beautifully painted cover by Earl Norem! The art was just beautiful in those mags too!

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