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Friday, October 9, 2015

Horror Key Issues Part 11

The late Silver Age saw DC Comics and Marvel Comics slowly creep back into the horror genre, and the even during the real early Bronze Age (1970 to 1971), they seemed to tip toe back into the realm.

However, Marvel did begin to publish comics featuring more traditional horror characters like Dracula and the werewolf, but other supernatural characters in their mainstream comics were introduced within more of the superhero bent than traditional horror.

Still, some classic Marvel horror related characters made their first appearances during the early Bronze Age, and we will definitely be touching up on them here in Part 11.

This Part 10 link shall bring you back if need be, but if you're ready to dare the next couple of horror key issues, then enjoy!

Amazing Spider-Man #101 cover - first appearance of Morbius the Living Vampire
1st appearance of Morbius

Before Marvel would bring back the traditional Count Dracula in the series Tomb of Dracula, they decided to create a character that was infected with the vampire-like disease. Morbius the Living Vampire was the result and has been one of the more horror-rooted super villains in the Marvel universe since then.

It seems that even though the ban on vampires was lifted by the Comics Code Authority, Marvel wasn't fully inclined to do a traditional horror character. During the creation process of this character, Roy Thomas wanted to do Dracula, but Stan Lee insisted on a costumed villain.

Thus, Morbius was given these vampiric traits due to science instead of magic or the supernatural. He would also be a featured character in the Adventure Into Fear comic series.

Marvel would eventually bring back more traditional monsters from the classic horror genre. Amazing Spider-Man #101 has the cover date of October, 1971. He was created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane.

1st appearance of Werewolf By Night

Unlike DC at the time, Marvel would capitalize on traditional horror characters like the werewolf once the horror resurgence came into effect during the Bronze Age of comics. One of the most notable creations for these furry beasts was that of Werewolf by Night.

I recommended this key issue a while back, and it's proven to be one of the best bronze age key issues to invest in. Since then, Marvel Spotlight #2 and the first appearance of Werewolf by Night has gone up quite nicely.

This issue also has the origin story of Jack Russell and how he is cursed to become Marvel Comics famous werewolf. We also see the first appearance of Lissa Russell, his sister, who also bears the family curse.

I still think Werewolf by Night would make a pretty awesome television show since DC Comics and Warner have found homes for a few of their horror comic properties on prime time. His story might make a better t.v. show than a movie franchise. Just a thought, though. 

Cover date for Marvel Spotlight #2 is February, 1972. Mike Ploog is the artist for this comic. He was also an artist for Warren briefly as well.

1st issue to series
1st appearance of Frank Drake
First appearance of Abraham van Helsing
First appearance of modern Marvel Dracula

With CCA's lift on their ban of vampires and werewolves, it was pretty obvious that Marvel would venture back to the character of Dracula. Thus many of the first appearances contained in Tomb of Dracula are for supporting characters of both Blade and Dracula.

Of course, the first appearance of Abraham van Helsing is through flashback, and the character is based off the Bram Stoker novel as is Dracula. Frank Drake, however, is a creation of Marvel and is a descendant of Dracula and resurrects the blood sucker by accident.

Frank Drake would later be tied to Rachel van Helsing, Taj Nital, Quincy Harper, Blade, Hannibal King and other vampire hunters rooted in this series and beyond. April, 1972 was when this was published, and it is greatly a Bronze Age comic worth snagging in my humble opinion.

1st appearance of Buck Cowan
1st appearance of Darkhold

Werewolf by Night would end up being popular enough for his own titled series and this issue marks the last Marvel Spotlight story he is in. The story is continued in Werewolf by Night #1.

However, this issue does hold the first appearance of Buck Cowan, who becomes an important supporting character in the Werewolf by Night stories. He is Jack Russell's long time best friend, and one of the only people who knows about his hairy curse. 

He often tries to help Jack throughout the series. If they do make a movie or television show for Werewolf by Night, Buck Cowan should be in it as a supporting character.

In the Marvel Spotlight key issues list, I did not mention that Marvel Spotlight #4 also sees the first appearance of the Darkhold, which is an important book of magic concerning werewolves and vampires. This Book of Sins is responsible for the creation of both creatures in the world of Marvel Comics.

Not even that well known, but I've talked about it a few times so far - Ghost Rider key issues list! June, 1942 is the cover date for Marvel Spotlight #4, and it is also the 3rd appearance of Jack Russell as Werewolf By Night.

1st appearance of Ghost Rider
Origin of Ghost Rider

First appearance of Roxanna and Crash Simpson
First Zatharos

We got more Mike Ploog goodness here. While Ghost Rider is technically deemed a superhero and from that genre, there's no doubt that he is rooted in the classic super-natural aspect of the horror genre. 

So, Marvel Spotlight #5 makes this list and is somewhat part of the horror resurgence during the Bronze age. He would be the 2nd character to take the name, but the first and original Ghost Rider did not have any powers nor was rooted in the demonic supernatural.

The holy grail of Ghost Rider key issues you can get. As most know, Marvel Spotlight #5 from the first series holds the first appearance of Ghost Rider and Johnny Blaze, but it also holds the first appearance of Roxanna and Crash Simpson.

Johnny Blaze is the son of a motorcycle stuntman who dies during a stunt. He is adopted by Crash Simpson and becomes part of his stunt team. While growing up, he becomes close to the Simpson's daughter Roxanna.

In the comic, it is Blaze's adopted father Crash Simpson who becomes ill with cancer. In order to save him, Blaze makes a deal with Satan, whom was later reconned to be Mephisto posing as the character, and sells his soul in order for Crash Simpson not to die of the disease.

In typical Mephisto fashion, Simpson is cured of his cancer but dies in a motorcycle stunt. Being all technical, Mephisto says he indeed kept his word and comes to claim Johnny's soul. It was only Roxanna's pure love for Blaze that kept Mephisto from obtaining it.

Because of this, Mephisto bonds Blaze and the Spirit of Vengeance known as Zatharos, unnamed in this issue, together out of vengeance. Thus, Ghost Rider is born and comics were never the same again. The first appearance and origin of Ghost Rider in Marvel Spotlight #5 was published August, 1972.

1st appearance & origin of Etrigan

The supernatural, the occult, demons and devils have always been aspects of horror. The Bible is full of stories depicting spirits, angels, and demons. 

It's no surprise that comics would once again tap into this realm of evil, and Etrigan the Demon is such character that would be introduced during the Bronze Age horror revival.

The Demon definitely leans more towards the superhero genre of comics, but the roots of the character was definitely spawned by the demand for more DC Comics horror characters. Created by Jack Kirby, this creation was actually ironic: Kirby had no interest in horror comics.

Apparently, it was even reported that he was annoyed that the first issue sold so well. The horror aspect of having a character tied to the ultimate lord of all evil appealed to many fans, and DC required Kirby to remain on The Demon comic series longer than he thought and liked.

Etrigan is son of a demon named Belial, and Etrigan was bonded with Jason Blood, a knight in King Arthur's Camelot, by the legendary Merlin. Thus, Blood is immortal and considers this attachment a curse.

One of the earliest anti-heroes in DC Comics, Etrigan the Demon is a cult fan favorite and a popular supporting character for DC's other powerhouse characters. Definitely one to consider for comic fans who love the melding of superhero and horror characters from this time period.

August, 1972 is the cover date for The Demon #1.

1st issue to self-titled and on-going horror series

Here is the first issue to Werewolf By Night, the on-going comic series that further tells the adventures of Jack Russell and his search to finding the cure to the curse of the werewolf. Definitely one of the cult favorite Marvel horror comics that came out during the Bronze Age.

Of course, Werewolf By Night started off in his own universe and this era would mark the birth of anti-heroes permeating the comics of Marvel. Jack Russell is one of them of course, and a very early example of such.

It's no surprise that two of the most iconic horror monsters would eventually meet, and Russell would encounter the lord of vampires in this comic series and Tomb of Dracula as well. The Darkhold scrolls would be a prominent item in the Werewolf By Night comic series as well, and this issue was published September, 1972.

These comics and characters featured in Part 11 are definitely more well-known and recognized by comic fans. Most likely, it's because many of these characters are rooted in the horror aspect but were definitely made to be more part of the superhero world of comics like The Demon and Ghost Rider.

It can even be debated whether The Demon or Ghost Rider could even remotely be classified as horror comics. As I've stated before, Ghost Rider was definitely meant to be a part of the superhero world of comics. Hell, it even says so on the cover.

Even though Marvel published Tomb of Dracula and Werewolf By Night, comics that featured traditional horror monsters, these characters would also crossover and interact with the publisher's various superheroes. That act or tactic would definitely make them more visible to comic fans who were more into superheroes at the time.

DC did put out The Witching Hour and The Unexpected during the late 60s and both were anthology comics that dealt with fantasy and weird horror. Actually, The Witching Hour was strictly a horror anthology title.

House of Mystery went back to it's horror roots by issue #175 by the late 60s also. As mentioned before, it wasn't until the Bronze Age when the flood gates reopened for the horror genre in comics.

Publishers would even find a simple and odd tactic that could go around the Comics Code and afford them the ability to publish stronger content in horror and other genres as well. We will definitely be taking a look at those in next part, so click the link below to continue.

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