I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
When I was in college, I knew a guy who insisted that his copy of Super-Villain Team-Up #12 was the only comic book he needed. The reason? It featured Dr. Doom and Red Skull fighting on the moon, and once you had that, how could anything else even compare?
One of my favorite things about superhero comic books in the nineteen-seventies–especially those titles that emanated from the House of Ideas known as Marvel Comics–was the total anything goes aesthetic that drove the stories. If there was some craze out there in the pop culture ether–be it sharks, kung fu or even disco–it was legitimate fodder for the comic book creators. This wasn’t a case of ironic posing, either. They often approached the oddball material as if they were dead serious about it. And, of course, the moon was a totally acceptable place for a story to take place.
So there we have Man-Wolf, which is the tragic lupine identity of John Jameson, the hero astronaut son of Spider-Man’s newspaper-running nemesis J. Jonah Jameson. As the caption notes, the ruby around his neck that’s blazing like a police siren is the item that gives him his powers. Rocks from other dimensions will do that, you know. Approach them with caution.
In the story written by David Kraft and penciled by George Perez, Man-Wolf’s visit to the moon resulted in him finding passage to a place called Other Realm, the source of his magic ruby. There, he was viewed as a god and he joined the beings there in a major battle they were fighting, giving Marvel creators a chance to cash in on the fantasy fervor that began with the massive popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings on college campuses.
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.
That whole situation may benefit from some further elaboration, so here’s a two-page splash from just a little further into the issue:
This is not, to put it plainly, a comic book that’s not kidding around.
I’d never hold this story up to suspicious souls seeking evidence of whether or not literary masterpieces could be crafted in the comic book form, but it surely does represent a level of complete, reckless, unashamed fun that’s been all but leeched out of comics these days. Space werewolves still show up, but in a knowing, half-satiric way. I’d rather read an old story featuring Man-Wolf as a sword-swinging inter-dimensional rapscallion. Any day.
Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude