Coming Retro-Attractions (Or, Books I Did Not Think Would Ever Exist)

Yesterday in the mail I beheld a minor miracle.

This arrived.

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”)….

….and Hellcow…

…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.

In hardcover.

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.

16 Comments

  1. Edo Bosnar

    My Man-Wolf book is on the way, hopefully it’ll arrive sometime next week. And yeah, I can’t express how delighted I am with that – I’ve been wanting all of the Man-Wolf as swashbuckling sword-and-sorcery-planet hero in one book since, basically, forever, and the fact that it’s padded with all of the material before and after that is just icing on the cake.
    I have another book that I’ve similarly wanted for the longest time, the Tigra Complete Collection, on pre-order.

    A complete collection of Dominic Fortune? Hell, yeah, that would be awesome.
    Other “weird shit from the ’70s” I’d like to see – although preferably in paperback rather than HC so they’re not as expensive – include the 8-issue run of DC’s sword & planet heroine Starfire, and one that I’m surprised hasn’t been done yet: a Ragman book that collects the 5-issue series plus his appearances in Brave & the Bold and Batman Family.

      1. Edo Bosnar

        Oh, yeah. I actually heard about that one before the Man-Wolf collection; I should have specified above, what I’ve wanted for the longest time is a collection featuring the complete, pre-Avengers stories of *Greer Nelson*, either as the Cat or Tigra – and that’s precisely what this book delivers. It’s almost like they asked me personally what I’d like to see published.

    1. Louis Bright-Raven

      I know you hate Trump, but you can hardly claim hosting 14 seasons and nearly 150 episodes of a show a failure, Jim. Granted, the success of said show is largely due to the real creator / producer of the show, one Mark Burnett, who has franchised “The Apprentice” and has been successful with it in 30 other countries without any connection to Trump whatsoever. But whether you or I like it or not, Trump’s was the first and helped give Burnett the platform to expand. (Do I wish Burnett had done it on BBC with a Brit billionaire first, since he’s British himself? Absolutely. I don’t think Trump would have become the American version host had there been someone before him doing it. Maybe Mark Cuban or someone else would have hosted it instead.)

      By all means, skewer him as a entrepeneur – failed at steaks, failed at real estate, failed at owning and running casinos, failed at owning a sports franchise and basically took down an entire sports league out of his own ego (USFL), et. al. But the “reality star”, he was successful at, much to everyone’s chagrin. And I think we can all agree no “Apprentice”, no Trump as President.

      1. Okay, first, let’s dispense with a charade inherent in the program: “14 seasons.” On most shows, a season equals a year. ‘The Apprentice’ runs two “seasons” per year, so Trump’s “14 seasons” were only half as long a period as they would like you to think.

        Also, the show steadily declined in ratings after the first season, requiring the shift of format to “Celebrity Apprentice” to stay on the air.

        Trump’s time on the show was a failure. He left because celebrity contestants and sponsors were threatening to boycott the show due to Trump’s involvement with the “birther” movement against Obama.

        Sure, the show was a financial success for him, allowing him to create the fiction that he was a billionaire and not heavily in debt. But ultimately his departure was due to his failure as a public persona.

        1. Louis Bright-Raven

          “Okay, first, let’s dispense with a charade inherent in the program: “14 seasons.” On most shows, a season equals a year. ‘The Apprentice’ runs two “seasons” per year, so Trump’s “14 seasons” were only half as long a period as they would like you to think.”

          ROTFLMAO.

          This is 2019, not 1989, Jim. MOST shows do NOT have ‘full order’ seasons of 20+ episodes. The AVERAGE season for a television show these days is only 10-13 episodes a season. Trump’s Seasons of THE APPRENTICE were 15 episodes a season.

          I’m not sure if it’s because of all the success of the ‘reality’ shows like SURVIVOR, DANCING WITH THE STARS, and yes, THE APPRENTICE, all of which average between 10-15 epsiodes per “season” (DWTS is on “Season” 28-29, and SURVIVOR has like 40), that the rest of the programming has moved over to that in the past decade or so, or of it’s because there are so many spinoff networks doing original programming who want shorter seasons, but that’s far more commonplace today than the ‘full order’ show. So no, a “TV Season” no longer equates to a year. (And really, it NEVER did, because even the full order of 20-26 eps only gives you HALF a year of weekly episodic programming, technically.)

          “What shows only have 10-18 episodes per season?” You ask? THE GOOD PLACE (NBC). THE GOOD DOCTOR (ABC). HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER (ABC). MAGNUM P.I. (the new version-CBS). SUITS (USA). MR. ROBOT (USA). VIKINGS (History). KNIGHTFALL (History). BETTER CALL SAUL (AMC). BREAKING BAD (AMC). INTO THE BADLANDS (AMC). MAD MEN(AMC). THE LIBRARIANS(TNT). Every Marvel TV series not named AGENTS OF SHIELD that’s come out since 2013 regardless of the network it’s aired on (and even AoS’ last two seasons were pared down from 20 to 13 – so that’s ABC, ABC FREEFORM, NETFLIX, FOX, FX, and probably another I’m not thinking of). ANIMAL KINGDOM (TNT). CLAWS (TNT). SONS OF ANARCHY (FX). SOUTHLAND (NBC / TNT). THE LAST SHIP (TNT). KILLJOYS (SYFY). THE EXPANSE (SYFY / Amazon Prime). DARK MATTER (SYFY). THE MAGICIANS (SYFY). PENN & TELLER: FOOL US (CW). BASKETS (FX). THE AMERICANS (FX). TIMELESS (NBC). FAIRLY LEGAL (USA). SUITS (USA). MR. ROBOT (USA). REVERIE (NBC). RIVERDALE (Season 1 -CW). IZOMBIE (Season 2 actually had 19 eps, but the rest had 13 -CW). CONSTANTINE (NBC). SNOWFALL (TNT).

          And we haven’t even scratched the surface.

          Now, if you want say THE APPRENTICE was a ‘charade’ because (most) everybody who ever appeared on the show was already a self-made success story and certainly didn’t have anything to learn from being there, especially once they went to the ‘Celebrity’ format, on *that* point I’ll totally agree with you. 🙂

          Now, the rest of what you wrote seems factually accurate, if maybe a bit slanted to your own perspective. But sorry, there was no ‘charade’ had there, at least not in terms of the number of seasons, any more than any other shows that run 10-18 eps per season.

  2. Louis Bright-Raven

    I would say it’s simply that Marvel and DC have already crapped out the majority of content in their archives, so here you go, here’s the last and least wanted stuff. Just so we can keep the copyrights intact and in case some Disney / Warners exec picks it up and decides they want to make another movie, y’know?

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    I’d be up for old om. I got the one trade they did; but, it was just the first Marvel Preview story, the Marvel Premiere issue, the more recent-era mini and web comic. No Marvel Super Action story, no Hulk Magazine back ups (come on, unauthorized Shadow crossover?).

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again; Marvel needs to do a Dominic Fortune period-correct movie.

    That, and Black Goliath!

    1. Edo Bosnar

      A Dominic Fortune period-piece movie? Oh, man, I’d love that, esp. since now there’s absolutely no chance that Marvel will ever do something I was hoping they would about 5-6 years ago: a Heroes for Hire (Power Man, Iron Fist, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing) movie set in the mid-1970s, that would have, among other things, served as an homage to both the martial arts and blaxploitation films.

      Black Goliath? Another hell, yeah from me.

  4. I’m glad that the covers of those DC collections all say “NOT FINAL COVER” at the bottom, because there are some hideous mistakes on them that I hope they don’t let go to press.

    The 1st Issue Special collection has a TON of dead space at the top (an artifact of the 70s trend of Big Honkin’ Logos on books that took up about a third of the cover space) and the Gerry Conway New Gods collection has an obvious paste-up in that caption reading “From the stars to planet Earth – Defeat Anti-Life or DIE!” at the bottom. They obviously shot a negative stat of the first bit of the sentence so that they could have white lettering on a color background without an outline around the letters.

    I really hope the DC production department fixes both of those. Even not-great comics reprints deserve the best possible production.

    1. I was actually kind of amazed that Man-Wolf went to press with that dialogue balloon cover. Clearly they re-jiggered the coloring and the logo and so on, but doing that while leaving the balloons just seems weird. Dialogue on covers is really old-school. I understand cheaping out on it and not commissioning a new cover for something so obscure, but… still. It always looks odd to me. (Although if I’m being honest, I never liked it on the original 70s comics either.)

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