Yesterday in the mail I beheld a minor miracle.
Man-Wolf: The Complete Collection assembles, in a single volume, the entire freaky run of seventies comics featuring tormented former astronaut John Jameson and his furry alter ego. ALL of them.
Collects Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #124-125, 189-190; Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1; Creatures on the Loose #30-37; Marvel Premiere #45-46; Marvel Team-Up (1972) #36-37; Savage She-Hulk #13-14; material from Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #3. When J. Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son, John Jameson, brings a strange red gemstone back from the moon, he finds himself transformed into the macabre Man-Wolf! Becoming a lycanthropic creature on the loose, the Man-Wolf battles Spider-Man, Morbius, Kraven the Hunter and more – while investigator Simon Stroud comes ever closer to the Man-Wolf’s true identity! Jameson soon discovers the truth behind the gem – but does his destiny lie in Other Realm wielding the sword of the Stargod? Or will the parasitic stone mean his destruction? Man-Wolf takes on Frankenstein’s monster, She-Hulk and more – but can Spider-Man save him from a fate worse than death?
That does not begin to do it justice. Even by seventies Marvel weirdness standards. And remember that includes the Elf With A Gun randomly murdering people….
…the brains-in-jars Psychedrome stuff in Planet of the Apes (note the “winged and silent monkey-demons”)….
…Damn, I’d forgotten that one.
Okay, granted, it’s no Hellcow. But Man-Wolf was pretty deranged, going from a fairly by-the-numbers werewolf story in Spider-Man to this in the space of maybe ten issues:
And escalating to THIS a few pages later.
I mean, I understand that the challenge was to differentiate the Man-Wolf from Marvel’s other lycanthrope headliner (Jack Russell, the Werewolf By Night) but this was a little out there.
As blogger Dan Seeger puts it: “To review, that panel has a astronaut who’s been transformed into a sort of space werewolf by a magical, other-dimensional ruby and he’s riding a dragon-pegasus-unicorn hybrid across some levitating mountains.”
Yeah. That was Marvel throughout the seventies. Drink it in, folks. Check out the recap on this issue of Steve Gerber’s run on Defenders:
Today we have Avengers movies featuring Jim Starlin’s Thanos and Bill Mantlo’s Rocket Raccoon and Steve Englehart’s Mantis grossing billions of dollars. That’s billions. With a B. To me that’s astonishing in and of itself, considering how I used to get jeered at and scolded and even occasionally beaten up just for liking this stuff. Clearly, we are in the Age of the Geek.
But, even in this extraordinary moment of pop culture vindication that nerds my age are living through, I still never expected to see fucking Man-Wolf headlining a collection.
For that matter, ALL the examples I listed above of Marvel’s try-anything approach to comics back then have been gathered for posterity in book collections, often in high-end hardcovers.
And they just keep coming. Over at the old stand I occasionally would write about books I wished would happen, like Marvel gathering together various of their experimental one-offs and try-outs and just calling it Weird Shit From the Seventies. Well, they didn’t call it that, but it seems to be happening.
Marvel’s supernatural superstars star in lavishly illustrated tales of horror! And many of these bizarre adventures from the age of the black-and-white magazine are collected here for the very first time! Blade hunts, Dracula stalks and the Zombie shambles! Meanwhile, night brings the daughter of the devil himself, the diabolical Satana! You’ll meet Gabriel, Devil Hunter! Discover the magic of Lady Daemon! Fear the Death-Dealing Mannikin! And brave the Haunt of Horror and the Vault of Evil! They’re rarely seen creepy classics filled with werewolves, vampires and monsters unleashed – read them if you dare!
Are those stories worth this kind of treatment? Probably not, most of them. (Although Gerber’s stuff was brilliant.) Am I thrilled they’re getting it? Hell yes. I love this stuff.
And a lot of them are books I missed the first time around. My lawn-mowing income went pretty far back in 1977, but I still had to pick and choose. Now, though, I think we are almost at the point where you can assemble bookshelf editions of Marvel’s entire output from 1963 to around 1980, in one form or another, and from disparate publishers, even.
I know I’m repeating myself but really, it’s almost impossible to put across how baffling and amazing this is to me. Understand, I’m not complaining– I’m overjoyed! — but I honestly don’t get it. There just aren’t that many people out there who even remember these books, let alone have the affection for them that I do. (Although of the other half-dozen of you that do, at least four are probably reading this column.) Sure, some of them are experiencing a resurgence fueled by movies and TV, like Star-Lord and Iron Fist, and others are part of beloved genre franchises like Star Trek and Doc Savage…but that doesn’t explain book collections like Skull the Slayer or Weirdworld or, well, Man-Wolf. I’m glad they’re out there and I added them to the library at my earliest opportunity, but I can’t stop wondering why Marvel did them in the first place. These comics were never hits, not even the licensed stuff like Doc Savage or Star Trek. Not at Marvel. That’s why you can get “the Complete Collection” in one volume.
What’s more, this week I discovered that stodgy old DC is getting on the short-run, failed-70s-comics paperback collection train as well. I thought we had reached peak ridiculous when Secret Society of Super-Villains got a two-volume hardcover set. But check this out– probably the lamest revival ever of the New Gods (and that’s saying something) is getting its own book. Yes, in hardcover.
So is its even more short-lived revival of Mister Miracle. Again, in hardcover.
I really did love this one, and it’s worth it just for the stunning Marshall Rogers art.
But it only lasted six issues, and Englehart and Rogers didn’t even stay for all of them– Steve Gerber and Michael Golden took it over before it sputtered to a halt.
But that’s not the nuttiest least-expected high-class reprint collection from DC that’s coming. That would be this one. In hardcover.
In 1975, DC brought back the anthology try-out series concept with 1ST ISSUE SPECIAL, which followed in the footsteps of the earlier try-out series SHOWCASE that had introduced heroes like the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Atom and more. These never-before-reprinted 1970s stories included new concepts from writer/artist Jack Kirby, plus stories illustrated by Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man) and Walter Simonson (best known for his work on Marvel’s Thor). Along the way, 1ST ISSUE SPECIAL introduced Atlas, Manhunter and Dingbats of Danger Street, all written and illustrated by Kirby, plus the classic fantasy adventure series Warlord, written and illustrated by Mike Grell, while bringing back beloved characters like Metamorpho, the Creeper and the New Gods. Also included are several “off the wall” concepts like the Green Team (crimefighting teenage millionaires!) and the gritty drama of Lady Cop. Collects 1ST ISSUE SPECIAL #1-13.
Who was asking for this? Sure some of them are great comics…. but most of the good ones are already included in other collections, like the Kirby stuff and Dr. Fate and Warlord. That leaves the lame-o’s like The Green Team and Lady Cop. (Even Kirby’s Atlas wasn’t anything to write home about.) Nevertheless, here it is– the DC collection of Weird Shit From the Seventies.
What a time to be alive.
There is one glaring omission, and I’d given up hope years ago…. but…
Surely, this trend in comics trade collections means that it’s finally time for the Complete Dominic Fortune?
Your move, Marvel.
Back next week with something cool.