Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Make Mine Marvel: Thongor

Lin Carter's Thongor was a fan boy's homage to the great Robert E. Howard's Conan as he merged Howard like characters with a more Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired world. Carter's character first began in the mid-60s during the Edgar Rice Burroughs boom and appeared in novels, short-stories and a variety of fantasy anthologies. Could Thongor have been Marvel Comics first barbarian character?  Writer Roy Thomas planned to get the rights to Thongor before he tried for the Conan license because he imagined Howard's estate would want more money for the character. However, Thomas soon found out that he could get Conan for the same price as Thongor, so he opted to purchase the Cimmerian, who became the star of Marvel's first and best known sword and sorcery magazines. After Marvel struck it big with Conan, his peer Kull soon followed, as the company  started adding  more sword and sorcery properties to their bullpen. Creatures on the Loose became their "barbarian try-out mag" since Kull made his debut there with issue #10, followed by Gullivar Jones of Mars, and finally Thongor with issue #22 in December 1972.  Thongor's storyline lasted through issue #29 ending in February of 1974. Science Fiction writer George Alec Effinger wrote the first four issues (with Tony Isabella helping out on book 25), then Golden Age great Gardner Fox wrote issues #26-27 before the  Steve Gerber completed the run with issues#28-29. Talented newcomer and barbarian fan Val Mayerick handled the artistic chores from issues #22-27, with the might Vincente Alcazar finishing out the tales in the last two issues.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Direct Currents: Johnny Thunder

One of National Comics early Western heroes Johnny Thunder, first appeared in All-American Comics #100 in 1948. His real name was John Stuart Mill Tane and he lived in a Mormon settlement of Mesa City, Arizona. The son of a sheriff and a schoolteacher, Johnny's mother makes him promise never to use violence to solve problems or pick up a gun and asks him to instead follow in her footsteps teaching. Johnny does become a mild mannered  schoolteacher, but he soon finds out that living in the wild west there are situations where violence is required to right a wrong. In order to keep his vow to his mother, Johnny created the identity of gunslinger Johnny Thunder by changing clothes and darkening his hair to coal  black. A superb athlete and swordsman, Johnny Thunder was also an expert sharpshooter and a superior horseman. He rode a white stallion whose odd dark marking on its forehead earned it the name Black Lightnin'. During an encounter with Johnny's arch-enemy Silk Black, Madame .44 accidentally learned Johnny Thunder's true identity, while Johnny learned that Madame .44 was actually his lady friend Jeanne Walker, a local photographer. Admitting their love for one another, John and Jeanne revealed their true identities to Sheriff Tane and were married soon after, promising to help the sheriff keep the peace in Mesa City. With twenty four issues ahead of there time in dealing with African and Native Americans, the art was equally impressive by Gil Kane and Alex Toth.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Foreign Favorites: IL Piccolo Ranger

Created by writer Andrea Lavezzolo and illustrated by Francesco Gamba, IL Piccolo Ranger (The Little Ranger) was produced by the  Audac  Publishing House with a first appearance on June 15, 1958. Kit Teller, our young hero of the series, is the son of Moses and Mary Worth Teller who emigrate from Wales to seek their fortune in the New World.  Arriving in the United States, the married couple end up in the wilds of the frontier in search for work as baby Kit arrives in 1861. When his mother suddenly dies and the baby falls ill, Moses seeks out the Indian tribe of Red Bison, which  nurse back to health the lad as the pioneers stay to learn the ways of the Native Americans. Moses eventually leave their new friends to become a Ranger and teachs Kit about being a soldier, until the fort adopts him as their youngest member. From this moment on, the Little Ranger lives out his adventures in the wilderness facing outlaws, savage Indians, fierce reptiles, uncanny extraterrestrials, and even medieval warriors who somehow landed in the States. With a strong supporting cast of colorful characters, there was always plenty of action and adventure that excited many a Italian reader with their Western teen hero.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dick Ayers...With Great Power Extended Interview

Nice little interview from 2012 with inker/artist Dick Ayers as he talks about working with Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, the Marvel Bullpen, and his experiences during World War II and Nick Fury and his Howling Commandoes!