Howard the Duck 23 (April 1978)

Howard the Duck #23

Leave it to Steve Gerber to do the impossible here. Wow. He takes this peculiar story arc (which ties back to Howard’s first appearance and ignores everything else in the series so far) and throws in these (intentionally) painfully obvious Star Wars references and then goes loose with it all.

The result is a good Spaceballs. The result is the perfect mix of subversive material, mainstream gags and storytelling intelligence. The comic’s called Howard the Duck and the duck’s been paddling around in a circle. Why’s Gerber do it? To make the return to him here work. It’s a strange thing–this issue is so tied to the previous one, it might have worked better as a single issue. Maybe double-size.

Because this comic–with gorgeous Mayerik art (wonderful depth)–is amazing. It’s “space humor” done better than anyone’s done it since or before. Even Dark Star.

It’s magnificent.


Star Waaugh; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; artist, Val Mayerik; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 22 (March 1978)

Howard the Duck #22

I’m not sure Howard is back on track so much as Gerber has found someplace to take it. The existing narrative of the series is on hold; this issue continues Howard’s first appearance (and death) over in Man-Thing. Now he’s back with Man-Thing, Jennifer Kale (Man-Thing’s blondie girlfriend), a blond Conan and an old wizard. His mission, save the universe.

In a very Star Wars fashion. It’s a little weird to see Gerber so obviously–and appreciatively–aping Star Wars at the same comic book company printing a monthly Star Wars comic book. Maybe Howard would have had legs as a zeitgeist parody, but it’s only because Gerber brings such personality to the homage.

Val Mayerik is back on pencils, which is cool, especially given the integral Man-Thing guest appearance, which works so well because it’s got Gerber writing it.

It’s a solid issue. Real solid.


May the Farce Be with You!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Bill Wray; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck Annual 1 (June 1977)

Howard the Duck Annual #1

The Howard the Duck Annual is a fantastic comic. Writers Mary Skrenes and Steve Gerber wisely go for an extended story as opposed to some special, annual-like one. Unless there’s something to Howard being in Arabia. Did Donald Duck ever have an Arabian adventure?

With Howard–especially with Val Mayerik on the art–there’s frequently a strange moment where the panel seems extremely iconic… only Howard’s not the iconic one. Between the visuals and the script, the comic often requires a moment of reflection from the reader. Crazy hijinks are going on, but Gerber handles them all so well, for a moment they don’t seem too crazy.

Gerber gets in quite a few good jokes here too. Some great situational punchlines. The issue also has Winda and Paul tagging along with Bev and Howard. It’s a very strange team comic or something.

I wish Howard was always annual-length.


Thief of Bagmom!; writers, Mary Skrenes and Steve Gerber; artist, Val Mayerik; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Joe Rosen; editor, Gerber; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 4 (April 1974)

The Man-Thing #4

Abel inks Mayerik even better this issue; occasionally there’s an almost Eisner-like roundness to the figures and the faces. The hair too–the hair’s not Eisner-like, but there’s often a lot of phenomenal hair.

Gerber continues with the Foolkiller, recounting his origin. It’s a tad much, actually. There’s some anti-religion, anti-military propaganda in Gerber’s story for the character and it’s not effective. It might have been a big deal at the time, but it’s really just a shortcut to not having to do much character work.

The art and the rest of the comic smooth out those bumps. The outlandish humor aspect–down to the Foolkiller having a van and car setup from “Knight Rider” (but before the television show; wonder if Marvel got a check for it)–and the way Gerber doesn’t try to do anything with Man-Thing except as the lumbering deus ex machina… it all works out.

Works out well.



The Making of a Madman!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Jack Abel; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Dave Hunt; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 3 (March 1974)

The Man-Thing #3

I almost want to cut this issue slack for the art; Jack Abel inking Val Mayerik is an interesting thing. Abel adds not just a lot of detail–to Man-Thing in particular–but comic expressions for most of the characters. Man-Thing all of a sudden seems to recognize its humor.

And a good deal of the issue has Gerber dealing with his human civilian cast. While they aren’t the most engaging people ever, Gerber’s coming up with new situations for them and plotting these situations well. It’s like he can’t ever screw up too much because his storytelling instincts are strong.

But then there’s Foolkiller, who makes his first appearance this issue. Gerber runs him through the issue, tying together all the subplots, but it’s all too obvious. The character feels way too artificial.

The worst part of the issue might be the cliffhanger–because Gerber doesn’t make it a rewarding one.



Day of the Killer, Night of the Fool!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Jack Abel; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Jean Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 2 (February 1974)

The Man Thing #2

One problem I can see Gerber having with Man-Thing is what to do on the regular issues, the ones where he has a somewhat ambitious narrative structure, but isn't doing anything fantastical. Gerber excels at the fantastical. This issue is not fantastical.

The structure's kind of neat. Man-Thing saves a guy who runs into a girl in trouble while Schist is plotting against Man-Thing (though Gerber tries too hard on the humor of the big scheming scene) and then Man-Thing runs into the trouble the girl's running from (a biker gang). It all comes together at the end.

Maybe if the guy, the protagonist for a lot of the issue, were a better character, it would work. Instead, he's a comical doofus; Gerber goes for jokes for his backstory without thinking them through.

It's a dense issue, however, and Gerber's plotting is a success. Mayerik and Trapani keep it moving.



Nowhere to Go But Down!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Jean Izzo; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 1 (January 1974)

The Man-Thing #1

At one point during the issue, the editor–or writer Steve Gerber–apologizes for the visual madness in Gerber’s script. This apology is for the reader. But given all the insanity Gerber throws together, which ranges from superheroes, Howard the Duck, wizards, barbarians, politicians in big cars and then army guys–not to mention castles, swamps and cosmic walkways–one has to wonder how artist Val Mayerik felt about it.

Ostensibly–and from the title, Man-Thing–this comic is about Man-Thing. But not really. Especially not since Gerber does a slight retcon on the character and removes its ability for maintaining thought. So, while the comic’s great and Gerber uses Man-Thing to good effect, it’s hard to say where he can take the comic.

But it certainly seems like it’ll be somewhere great. Part of Gerber’s charm is his unexpectedness.

It’s a brilliantly written comic book with these fantastic little moments. Gerber and Mayerik are awesome.



Battle for the Palace of the Gods!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Dave Hunt; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 19 (December 1973)

Fear #19

Apparently Mayerik and Trapani are keeping this new style, which is Trapani doing bad faces most of the time. Very unfortunate.

The issue is a mess of alternate realities, barbarians, ducks, GIs and something else. Magicians. Gerber is writing about the walls of reality collapsing and somehow he’s just got to get Man-Thing involved. But he doesn’t until towards the end of the issue and not well.

The story’s imaginative but there’s just no point to it. Man-Thing isn’t a full character in the comic, not with Gerber constantly trying to pull away from him–which is fine, so long as you don’t pretend otherwise. And the Jennifer girl is a problematic protagonist too. She’s the one who’s having the great adventure, yet Gerber can’t stick with her.

So he sticks with the guest stars, then brings in Man-Thing. It’s an okay hodgepodge. Except the weak art.



The Enchanter’s Apprentice!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Stan Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 18 (November 1973)

Fear #18

It’s really bad art. From Mayerik and Trapani too. Maybe the inks are a little off but I think a lot if it must be the pencils. I really hope it’s not some new style they’re working on. Because it’s bad.

Gerber tries very hard with this story, which is sort of a talking heads disaster story, very self-aware microcosm of American life thing. He tries so hard and he fails. He fails miserably. The tone is off and none of the many things Gerber does to even establish one fails. It’s like he’s got an earnest idea and no way to honestly do it in this comic.

But then there’s the bit action finale and it’s great. It’s a classic horror problem with a modern, slightly askew approach to it. Gerber sort of saves the issue; he gets credit for the attempt.

That art is really bad though.



A Question of Survival!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 17 (October 1973)

Fear #17

This story is the best so far in Gerber’s Man-Thing run so far. He does a story introducing a Superman analogue, only without growing up in the world and some other significant changes. But what’s important is how Gerber writes this character as encountering the world. Gerber does a second person thing and it’s fascinating stuff.

The Superman analogue becomes the reader or vice versa. If Gerber’s aware how he’s presenting this story, as a guided tour into how someone is going to experience the reading of the story itself, is he purposefully casting the comic book reader as a superhero. If so, a Superman analogue with its familiarity, works perfectly.

Trapani inks Mayerik again to even more success because there’s this goofy big time superhero action sequence in the middle of a small town. It’s simultaneously delightful and bewildering.

It’s a fantastic, multilayered story. Gerber does singularly well.



It Came Out of the Sky!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Jean Izzo; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 16 (September 1973)

Fear #16

Sal Trapani inks Mayerik fairly well. Everyone looks a little too Marvel house style for it to be a horror comic, but it’s good art. There’s a lot of action in the issue, with Man-Thing getting involved with these Native American kids who decide to attack an industrialist destroying the swamp. They do it in costume, which gives the book an odd feel.

It’s modern, but then you’ve got these Native Americans in the swamp and it feels like a Western comic or something. Like the cowboy gets lost in the swamp.

No one gets lost here.

Gerber keeps his supporting cast around, even after the vague closure of their last appearance. It gives the setting a good feel–they show up in a crowd scene and Gerber focuses on them–and the familiarity is nice.

Plus, Gerber writes the Man-Thing narration well. It’s confused, just like him.



Cry of the Native; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 15 (August 1973)

Fear #14

Gerber writes the heck out of the first feature length Man-Thing story. There’s a lot of new information introduced, with Gerber doing a lengthy flashback. The flashback–to Atlantis and an explanation of something the present–takes the place of a backup story. But put as a second chapter, it relieves a lot of drama. Not too much, just about right.

One really different thing is how Gerber has his cult out to save the world from demons; they’re the good guys. Don’t see good cults often.

Everything moves real fast. The world’s in chaos, the supporting cast gets together and finds Man-Thing, flashback, resolution. But Gerber makes sure each section is filled. Not so much with Man-Thing, who’s backseat to the girl, Jennifer (especially after she magically gets a risqué outfit). She’s also related to the flashback.

Depressing ending too.

It’s a good, well-executed issue.



From Here to Infinity!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Frank McLaughlin; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 14 (June 1973)

Adventures Into Fear #14

The Man-Thing feature is pretty good. Gerber starts clarifying the nexus in the swamp and also the real villains behind the story. They’re not the most original villains–demons from hell–but the way Gerber sets it up is strong. While there’s a forward-thinking element to the top story with the kids hanging out with Man-Thing, the demons are gloriously aged.

They’re basically Romans with pointy ears and Gerber doesn’t go for any humor with them. Loosing Man-Thing in this environment is ludicrous but it works out. The incongruity probably helps.

Chic Stone’s inks aren’t the best for Mayerick but the art’s still good. Gerber seems oddly detached from Man-Thing’s story this time around though. He’s occasionally cruel to the creature in the expository narration.

Then the fifties backup is this awesome story from Paul Reinman. Great art, great story. Very impressive.

This issue’s outstanding.



Man-Thing, The Demon Plague; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Chic Stone; colorist, Stan Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek. Listen, You Fool; artist, Paul Reinman. Editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 13 (April 1973)

Adventure Into Fear #13

Oh, very good news–Val Mayerik is on the pencils (with Frank Bolle in inks). From the first couple pages of Man-Thing, it's clear the art is going to be a lot better. It shouldn't be particularly obvious, as it's a Man-Thing story and Mayerik doesn't illustrate him until later in the story but the way Mayerik draws the supporting cast is enough to show things have turned around.

Gerber fleshes out that supporting cast more here, he shows how the local girl is somehow linked to Man-Thing, for instance. But he's also got a better grip on how to write Man-Thing himself. While Gerber does fall back on Man-Thing's human side getting dialogue, the sequence is effective and doesn't seem forced.

Maybe because it's in the second act, not the third. Anyway, good feature.

The sixties backup has indistinct Gene Colan art. The Lieber and Lee story's distinctively crappy though.



Man-Thing, Where Worlds Collide!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Frank Bolle; colorist, Ben Hunt; letterer, Artie Simek. Mister Black; writers, Stan Lee and Larry Lieber; artist, Gene Colan. Editors, Lee and Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ka-Zar the Savage 26 (May 1983)


This issue is extremely hectic. The first three-quarters of it pick up immediately following the previous issue–Ka-Zar and Spider-Man duke it out until they decide to be buddies. Then they go save Shanna, which is easier said than done.

But even after Shanna’s rescued, Jones doesn’t let up on the pace. Ka-Zar’s hellbent on getting out of New York immediately and, even though it’s fairly fantastic (and owes a lot to Raiders of the Lost Ark), his scheme works.

The issue’s a particularly nice exercise. Jones establishes Ka-Zar as wanting back to the Savage Land, the cover is clear on the New York exodus… it all comes together quite well.

Except, of course, Frenz’s artwork. It’s not completely awful, but he’s lost the urban touch he exhibited a few issues ago.

The Mayerik-illustrated backup comes to a fine conclusion. Some great artwork in just a few pages.

Ka-Zar the Savage 21 (December 1982)


Mel Candido is great inker for Frenz. For the most part, the issue looks great. Not great great, but great for a Marvel house style book, which Ka-Zar has apparently become. Right down to the Romita-style Peter Parker.

While the issue opens resolving the big Ka-Zar versus Kraven fight, it then becomes a conversation issue. Not quite talking heads, because the pacing isn’t slow enough. For example, Spider-Man and Kraven argue over whether they should fight, seeing as how they both worked together to save Ka-Zar.

The issue is then Shanna talking to Peter Parker about her life.

But somehow, it’s all very traditional. Jones doesn’t include any indulgences, but more… it seems like he isn’t interested. It’s a fine issue, but an unenthusiastic one.

However, the flashback backup is amazing. Mayerick’s art on this installment is singular and Jones writes a surprising hard cliffhanger.

Ka-Zar the Savage 19 (October 1982)


This issue is very full. Not a lot happens, but there are a lot of scenes and most of them have some action. Ka-Zar, an amnesiac mute after his brain injury, roams New York while Shanna tries to save him. She has to surmount government bureaucracy… and buy a new set of clothes. Meanwhile, the villainous hussy from last issue is doing her own thing.

Bringing Ka-Zar and Shanna to New York gives Jones a lot of material. The story itself is sort of secondary to the little encounters both have in the modern world. Jones maintains the characters perfectly–these are people who have left the modern world and are only back in it by force. They don’t fit, regardless of attire.

Unfortunately, Gil’s art has its usual problems, otherwise it’s excellent.

The backup has some beautiful Mayerik art… but not enough. The backup is way too short again.

Ka-Zar the Savage 17 (August 1982)


This issue is a nice done-in-one, with Ka-Zar tripping on bad mushrooms and thinking he’s Sam Spade after a double-crossing dame (Shanna).

Unfortunately, Frenz is still on the art–I suppose his noir scenes are a little better than his jungle scenes, but not much. It’s a script tailor made for the departed Brent Anderson.

But what’s interesting about it is how Jones approaches the whole event. It’s clear he identifies more with Shanna. She choses the Savage Land lifestyle, which makes her more interesting than Ka-Zar, who’s bound to it. Half the issue follows her around and Jones does a fine job.

The Mayerik illustrated backup is this lovely story of Ka-Zar’s sabertooth tiger (when Ka-Zar was a kid). It’s all silent, just great, emotive imagery. Disney really ought to be mining this series for movies… but not as much as Marvel should be collecting it.

Ka-Zar the Savage 16 (July 1982)


Ron Frenz. Ron Frenz does the pencils this issue. Ron Frenz doing jungle action. Not just jungle action, but jungle action with shades of Lovecraft.

It’s hideous. Even though Gil can’t pencil, he’s inked Ka-Zar well but there’s nothing he can do on Frenz’s pencils. This issue looks incredibly silly.

But the story’s not silly.

It reminds of the Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson Swamp Thing actually, with Ka-Zar and Shanna getting involved in the fantastic without having any idea what’s going on. The mystery keeps getting more confounding–a pygmy tribe, an adorable lemur and a tentacle monster–until Jones explains it all.

The issue works. Jones pulls it off, particularly because he’s got Ka-Zar alone as the protagonist for a while. And when Shanna is around, Jones comes up with some great character drama for the two of them.

The backup (with lovely Mayerik art) is too short.

Ka-Zar the Savage 15 (June 1982)


Brent Anderson did “thumbnail layouts” for this issue, Gil does the rest. So there are some beautifully composed pages and panels and then not the art to make them work. Gil seems better suited for cartoonist work, not jungle adventure. Especially not a jungle adventure where subtle, poignant emotions are going to play a part.

The issue continues Jones’s pacing problems from the previous one. Even though the issues are immediately subsequent, Jones treats them like time passes. Just because the reader has had a month to sit on a story doesn’t mean the characters have….

As a result, Shanna’s emotional state has moved a lot and the ending, which is exceptionally predictable, falls flat. Jones finally confronts Shanna’s sociological superiority to “savage” peoples and that moment does work. The end could have been so much better.

The Val Mayerik illustrated backup is quite good. It improves the issue overall.

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