Because You Demanded It! Brad Gets Lost! But In Which Realm…?
Man-Wolf: “Good Lord! We were on a flying mountain!”
Garth Of Mournhelm: “Calling on yourself already, Stargod? Our world functions on a higher spatio-temporal plane than your own. More things are possible here than you have ever dreamed!”
Welcome back, True Believers!
Oh, don’t mind the mess.
On this stormy night, your tour guide here is busy supervising his rabble of minions to sort out the multifarious All-Colour delights that have accumulated over this past year. So, what theme for this particular Bronze Age Bonanza?
During these (dark) times, when most of us would just like to escape, plunging into pulsating pages of fantasy seem the most reassuring answer – why not escape with Brad? Another scintillating variety show has been assembled; mocha and cake await.
Fasten your seatbelts – the awesomeness has been set in an upright position.
Now, let’s head along the Rainbow Bridge to my all-time fave Otherworldly destination:
Asgard! And – hey! – Olympia too?!
“Thou wouldst hurl skyfire at him who did direct the forging of his son’s own storming-bringing hammer?! Verily, such effrontery doth cry out unto the heavens for punishment!” – Odin All-Father.
Yes, yes, YES!
After several months of tracking other cosmic goodies elsewhere, my attention inevitably falls back to the God Of Thunder –
with that legendary run by Big John Buscema especially topping mt shopping list.
The Mighty Thor is one of my most beloved series; thus, now, more than ever, my scanners have been reprogrammed to seek out anything and everything Asgardian, especially as Thor: Ragnarok-fever gathers apace.
In The Mighty Thor #289 (November 1979) “Look Homeward, Asgardian!” – brought to us by the ever-reliable pen of Roy Thomas, and the ever-exquisite pencils of Keith Pollard – Thor, after seeing his father kneeling before the Celestials, angrily hurls himself at the One Above All. Instead of striking him, he is instantly transported into Olympia. Zuras tells Thor that he has 24 hours to find another solution to the Celestials predicament, before the Uni-Mind will attack. Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Karnilla weeps over the body of Balder, then speaks to Frigga about her not being Thor’s real mother.
Jeez! This is a cosmic soap opera!
Unlike the sentimental tosh we are bombarded with on the telly, this is all engrossing reading. Its one of those ishs where you are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting an awesome page to accompany my rambunctious ruminations, but little can compare to the sheer majesty of Odin riding on his eight-hooved steed: Sleipnir to the realm of Olympus:
And then we move onto:
“I’ve had enough! There is still time before the wizard Athmar Phong returns at dawn… I will not be in his power!” – Thongor.
From Thor to Thongor!
Sadly, this is the only clever line you will find in this section.
It has been an absolute joy catching up with Man-Wolf – one of the more intriguing characters to initially spark this craving for classic Bronze Age comics. Unfortunatey, the series carrying his adventures: Creatures On The Loose was cancelled, with two episodes of the Star-God epic failing to see the light of day.
Having searched for earlier ishs: #s 11-17 – containing stories featuring Gullivar Jones (a precursor of John Carter Of Mars), we had to make do with a dose of sword-and-sorcery – #23 (May 1973) in the series: Thongor: Warrior of Lost Lemuria is based on “Thieves Of Zangabal” by Lin Carter. Th cover of “Where Broods The Demon!” features the promising blurb: “sword-and-sorcery as only magnificent Marvel can present it!”
At one point during my teens, sword-and-sopcery was all one craved, but even back then – “By Gorm’s Beard!” – trying to get into this particular ish would still have posed such an unwanted challenge. No point in adding the names of the writer and artist – you will not have heard of them. The art is below-average even by Marvel’s lofty standards, and trying to find suitable speech bubbles to quote proved to be an unnecessary chore. At one point, that green monstrosity (depicted on the cover) blurts:
“I weary of this, fleshthing! I have grown bored!”
Jeez, took the words right outta my mouth, Crocface…
Brad would much rather get stuck in:
The Shadow Realm!
…than have to sit through another ish in this series.
Wonder Man: “I’m sorry, Mr Bertolini. It’s just that being Wonder Man, it’s hard for me to pretend those cannonballs are hurting me when I can hardly feel them.”
Mr Bertolini: “True, Signore Wonder Man, but I hired you because I thought you could a-act. And-a these cannonballs don’t grow on grapevines, neither! That was the seventh take! I‘m-a disgusted. Let’s-a break for lunch…”
“At dawn today, our surveillamce planes detected what was apparently a… city materializing in the middle of the Mediterranean. We were sent to investigate when…
“…a tidal wave of hugh proportions swelled up and carried us several miles to this island.”
– so explains the confused captain of a US aircrafl carrier who encounters an otherworldly city: the Shadow Realm, reappearing in the ocean two millennia after it mysteriously vanished.
In 1981, this series consisted of critically-panned fillers, However, during this period, Genial Gene “The Dean” Colan contributed his legendary art. Glad to say that the monumental ish: #211 – in which “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” were trimmed from eight members down to a combo of six – happened to be my very first Avengers mag!
Twenty years later, it is equally thrilling to have tracked down #207 (May 1981); “Beyond A Shadow…” is an astounding tale of science-fantasy.
Fortunately, already in Italy is my comedic-double-act-of-the-moment: Wonder-Man (making a spaghetti western) and The Beast (working on his tan and letting the local signorinas stroke his blue fur and what-not). Pretty soon, all the Avengers are on the scene. In a touching interlude (spread out across four wonderful pages) Shadow-Lord tells Wonder-Man’s girlfriend that he is a member of an ancient tribe who “gradually learned to control certain forces of nature.” Feared and shunned by others, they – and their powers – withdrew into the obscurity of history.
Sheesh, there’s always one, isn’t there?!
“Over the aeons, we became aware of a seemingly immortal force of awesome destruction – one who could potentially plunge mankind into an irreversible slide to its doom.”
Such a tragic end: the Avengers are too late to realise that Shadow-Lord was just a Guardian; the real threat (the one he gave up mortality – and his love – to thwart) comes in the form of The Berserker: that immortal force who – having already conquered the world once in the guise of an ancient Roman emperor – no doubt proves his formidable villainry in the much-sought-after #208!
All this, AND the Beast bedecked in Hawaiian shirt and shades:
“Oh my stars and garters!”
And then it goes all mystic as we are swept into:
The Unreal Realm Inside The Orb Of Agamotto(!)
“The slightest touch of my realm dispels life within you! The sizeable rock which smote the other spirit dispatched it almost instantly, as you saw! Even now, the submicroscopic particles always present in space cut through you…” – Death.
“Inside was a world of unreality, where a prattling caterpillar told me I had ventured too near illusion in my escape from death, dooming me to this shadowy realm!”
One of the undeniable pleasures to be gained from this hunt for yesteryears’ awesomeness is catching up with Doctor Strange.
Last year – to prepare myself for Bennybatch’s dip into the MCU – getting acquainted with the Master Of Th Mystic Arts seemed like the obvious – and somewhat tantalising – treat.
By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!
Talk about getting MORE than you bargained for! Steve Englehart’s scripts are a revelation, and – yes! – the realism evoked by Gene “The Dean” Colan’s pencils is just as magical as anything The Master Of Mystic Arts can conjure.
In this study of the transdimensional realms, Ish #4: “Where Bound’ries… Decay” (October 1974) is brought to us by the equally brilliant artwork of Frank Brunner. Here, by using the necromancy of the Orb of Agamotto to help heal wounds inflicted by Silver Dagger, “suddenly, grotesque tentacles shot forth from the Orb, entangling me, drawing me… inside!”
Blimey! Never a dull moment with Stephen!
In my restless pursuit of Bronze Age comics, who knew that a descent into the horrific Realm Of Death could make for such an engrossing read?
It is amazing how swiftly Doctor Strange has become one of my fave characters in all o’ Marveldom, and – Oshtur be praised! – this ish is a veritable classic, and would grace anybody’s collection (if you can lay your hands on it).
Galador! And Wraithworld (in the Dark Nebula)
“…For Galactus has said before, and shall say again, that Galactus is supreme unto himself! Galactus is Galactus! That is all any lesser being ever need know!” – (guess who? 😉 ) Galactus.
Regular Followers will know the squidgy and sentimental soft spot that Brad holds for ROM: Th Greatest of the Spaceknights, celebrated in this Post.
The Marvel Milestone recognised as #25 witnessed ROM’s dramatic return to his beloved homeworld. AND is one of the single most amazing ishs to ever pass through these grubby mitts.
But nothing prepared this blogger for what would transpire in #26 – GALACTUS – YES! GALACTUS, the gargantuan World-Devourer – through his despicable herald: Terrax The Tamer, announces that Galador itself has whetted his dreaded appetite! Thus, the Spaceknights assemble to enact one of the Bronze Age’s most epic battles.
Yet it is the extraordinarily impressive #27 (February 1982) that tickles MY taste buds here. Delivered by the consistently-impressive dynamic duo of Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema: “Turnabout is Fair Play!” witnesses th deal that ROM has made: taking the Devourer of Worlds to the Dark Nebula, and thus rid the Spaceknights of the homeworld of their sworn enemy: the Dire Wraiths.
Wraithworld is unlike any planet Galactus has ever had to deal with before!
“Rivers of molten metal scar the surface… Ash as black as night sweeps like a pestilence through the darkling sky!” he complains bitterly.
Moreover, vicious acid rain not only eats away at Galador-forged plandanium armour, but the relentless torrents corrode the mighty Galactus himself and melts his Energy Convertor into elemental slag! Having turned his impatient attention to the Black Sun, Galactus is then set upon by a flock of giant Deathwings: “sorcerous conjurations of a galaxy where all physical laws are ruled by magic most black!”
Not surprisingly, this ish holds a reserved place in my collection.
As one elated Spaceknight herein cries out: “Gods of Golden Galador, yes! YES!”
Starshine: “Will he consume the Black Sun… or be consumed by it?”
Javelin: “Or will both perish in the attempt?”
ROM: “We dare not remain on Wraithworld to find out, Javelin! Not even our cyborg armour would survive the ensuing cataclysm!”
Last BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST(!) comes one of those pinnacles of Bronze Age excellence:
The Other Realm (And Earth’s Moon)
“Yes! Leap at me, carrion! Come be kissed by my shining hand!” – Duna.
Aha! THIS is more like it!
Marvel Premiere Featuring Man-Wolf #45 offers a more satisfying dash of sword-and-sorcery than that Thongor could ever dare to dream…
In fact, this is the first-part-of-two that should have appeared in Creatures On The Loose. It is really gratifying to see David Kraft and George Perez re-unite to conclude this classic cosmic ceper from beyond the stars – previous episodes were reviewed here:
The concluding instalment (in Marvel Premiere Featuring Man-Wolf #46) is equally awesome.
Just seeing Wolfie and his otherdimensional buddies on (flying) horseback jousting in mid-air with the cadaverous horde of Arisen Tyrk is perfect to while away any rainy day. This sums up – in the most groovy manner possible – what Bronze Age comics could deliver at the height of their creative powers.
Mesmerizingly illustrated, this ish not only provides a swell escape from my daily toils and troubles, but inspires me to conjure up my own weird and wonderful worlds.
On that positive note, here ends this Bronze Age Bonanza!
Keep it cosmic!
“You crummy skeletons think you can pick us off that easily? Eat my fire, bonebags!” – Gorjoon.