Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mighty Marvel Monster Mash

It's a Halloween tradition for monsters to gather and mash up...

...and that was true at Marvel Comics as well, as four of its greatest monster heroes, all of whom had their own series at the time, gathered in Marvel Premiere #28 (February, 1976) by Bill Mantlo and Frank Robbins to deal with the fact that "There's A Mountain on Sunset Boulevard!" and the menace of the Starseed!

This story showed perhaps who the real monsters were...but who are these four Marvelous monsters that gathered together?


"Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing's touch!".  That was the tagline for the series featuring the muck monster of the swamps of the Florida Everglades  that was the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities within... Dr. Ted Sallis was working to recreate the "Super-Soldier serum" which created Captain America, but A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) tries to get the formula, but he escapes with it, injects himself with it and crashes in the Florida Everglades where the formula (and mystical energies of the area) transform him into the mindless monster...the Man-Thing. 

Created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow, Man-Thing first appeared in Savage Tales #1 (May, 1971), went on to guest star in Ka-Zar's Astonishing Tales series for 2 issues (#12 and 13, which would have introduced Barbara "Bobbi" Morse, but due to publishing delays, she was introduced earlier, and later became Mockingbird), before receiving his own feature in Adventure Into Fear (#10-19), as well as a few of his own series (and many guest appearances, meeting with Marvel regulars, like the Hulk, the Thing, Spider-Man, Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange, the Defenders and oh so many more, as well as having the series which introduced Howard the Duck thanks to writer Steve Gerber!).


"The Living Vampire".  Dr. Michael Morbius was trying to cure himself of a rare blood disease, and the formula he took (along with electro-shock treatments) turned him pale, gave him strength and speed and the ability to fly... well as vampire like traits including the need for blood and a more nocturnal lifestyle. 

Morbius faced the six-armed Spider-Man and the Lizard in his first appearance (that of Amazing Spider-Man #101, written by creators Roy Thomas and art by Gil Kane in October, 1971), but soon went on to menace Spider-Man, the Human Torch and the X-Men in the pages of Marvel Team-Up (#3 and 4), before displacing Man-Thing from Adventure Into Fear, starting his own run from issues #20 to 31 (during which he also faced Dracula foe, Blade, as well), as well as a run in Vampire Tales, and turning John Jameson back into the Man-Wolf!  For a time, Morbius was cured (and ended up helping the She-Hulk and the Fantastic Four), but his abilities (and problems) returned again, with his own series (and it put him at odds with heroes like Dr. Strange and the Ghost Rider, as well as Spider-Man and Blade again, even with Deathlok all with a more goth look!).

Werewolf By Night

"By the light of the full moon, it is the Werewolf By Night".  Young Jacob Russoff came to America from Transylvania  after the death of his father, and his mother Americanized his name to Jack Russell, and learned of his lycanthropy on his 18th birthday as his mother died from wounds from a car crash, Jack became a Werewolf by Night, losing his control with the moon and becoming a wild animal, with claws and a desire to kill!

Over time, Jack began to get some control over his transformations (so things weren't as bad as his first appearance in Marvel Spotlight #2 of February, 1972, by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog), and even worked with heroes like Spider-Man and Iron Man, as well as meeting other monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and Morbius during the course of his 43 issue series (that also had 5 Giant-Size issues, though the first was Giant-Size Creatures, and changed the Cat into Tigra, all while facing Hydra).  The series even introduced Moon Knight, as well as other demonic menaces, and killers like the Tatterdemalion and the Hangman and even Brother Voodoo.  For a time, he hung out with Spider-Woman as well, joining another band of monster themed heroes called the Night Shift under the leadership of the Shroud (and facing the West Coast Avengers, who were being led by Hawkeye at the time), and aided Dr. Strange and Captain well as Ghost Rider. 

Ghost Rider

"Is He Alive Or Dead?"  Johnny Blaze lost his parents, and was raised by Crash and Mona Simpson, who were a circus stunt cycle team.  Johnny joined in, taking a more active role, and when Crash was diagnosed with cancer, tried to save him via occult methods, making a deal with the devil (Mephisto, foe of the Silver Surfer, though he didn't know it then), was bonded to the demon, Zarathos, turning into the demonic Ghost Rider, who manifested at night and had the power of hellfire!

Created by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog, this motorcycle riding hell-blazer took over Marvel Spotlight from the Werewolf by Night (with Marvel Spotlight #5, August, 1972, his first appearance), and stayed there until issue 11 (and he helped the new star, the Son of Satan as well), after which he got his own series which lasted 81 issues.  Along the way, Johnny helped a lot of people travelling across the American southwest, helping to found the Champions (with Angel, Iceman, Hercules and Black Widow), working with Hawkeye and the Two-Gun Kid, facing the Hulk, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Dr. Druid, the Thing, and even meeting the previous Ghost Rider (a western hero, who also went by the name of Night Rider and Phantom Rider), all while, quite literally battling his inner demon, as well as menaces like Fantastic Four foe the Trapster, the motorcycle riding Orb, and sorcerers like Moondark!

More Monsters

The Legion of Monsters was also a Marvel Magazine, that came out in September, 1975, with separate stories of Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster, as well as the introduction of the Manphibian (by Marv Wolfman, Tony Isabella and Dave Cockrum) who was like the Creature From the Black Lagoon....a real Universal Monster mashup, all under a cover by Neal Adams

Sadly, there was only one issue of this magazine (though all the characters in it continued on at Marvel...even meeting with some of the monsters mentioned above!).

While the Legion of Monsters isn't as well known as the Avengers, this team did make a mark all over the Marvel Universe including the Avengers!
You can even find the Marvel Premiere issue reprinted in Marvel: Legion of Monsters (2011), along with a few more recent stories (and stories from the Marvel magazine, Legion of Monsters!).

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