Overview

The Monster Mash - Part 3

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Halloween is well and truly over but as the clock stops chiming midnight and the ghosts and ghoulies go into hiding for another twelve months, we bring you the final part of our brief look at Marvel’s classic horror output from thirty or so years back. Once again, a selected reading list (where available!) of reprints of this eminently readable material is presented below each entry. It’s been a lot of fun revisiting some of these wonderful, and often downright silly, stories and I hope a little of my enthusiasm for this era in Marvel’s publishing history tempts you to check out some of the cheap reprints out there.

Something Wicked this Way Comes…

Marvel’s most pre-eminent magician won’t be getting much coverage here as we could fill several articles with the exploits of the Sorcerer Supreme Dr. Strange, but there were a number of other active magicians and mystics in Bronze Age Marvel comics who were certainly closer to the horror genre. Probably the most lampooned (most memorably, and affectionately of course, by Fred Hembeck) is Brother Voodoo. This hero was the featured star of the reborn Strange Tales #s 169-173 in 1973 and had a couple of solo spots in Tales of the Zombie #6 and 10.

Psychologist Jericho Drumm returned to his homeland of Haiti to find his brother the victim of an evil Voodoo cult led by a sorcerer possessed by the snake-god Damballah. Studying the ways of Voodoo under the tutelage of his mentor Papa Jambo, Drumm eventually took on the name Brother Voodoo and joined by Daniel Drumm’s spirit avenged his brother’s death. BV did not exactly set the comics world on fire salewise and managed just five issues of Strange Tales before being replaced by the Golem, a supernatural entity based on the Hebrew legends. The Golem fared less well, lasting just three issues before his story was concluded in Marvel Two-In-One #11.

Elsewhere a plethora of supernatural stars were all having their fifteen minutes of fame across the Marvel U. No doubt inspired by The Exorcist, eyepatch-wearin g ghostbuster Gabriel was a fixture of the black and white Haunt of Horror magazine  and latter issues of Monsters Unleashed. A number of old Dr. Droom strips were reprinted as Dr. Druid (the name the character keeps to this day) adventures in Weird Wonder Tales and Modred the Mystic, an Arthurian-related magic-user, headlined the first two issues of Marvel Chillers before guesting with The Thing in Marvel Two-In-One #33. A descent into villainy in the pages of The Avengers would soon follow…

Selected Reading

You can briefly get a gist of what the Brother Voodoo strip was like in Essential Tales of the Zombie. The only Golem tale you’re ever likely to see reprinted is in Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 1! And ditto for Modred solo adventures I’m afraid. He does appear in Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 2 though. Sadly there’s also nothing for Gabriel as yet (but maybe an Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2 could represent some of the unreprinted black and white magazine material one day?) and Dr. Druid’s feature was all reprints anyway.

Back Spawn of Satan!

Just who "Satan" really is in the Marvel Universe is a question that has  been confused by retcon after retcon over the years. However, in 1973 a character debuted claiming to be the son of the true devil. Daimon Hellstrom made his first appearance in Ghost Rider #1 before gaining his own run in Marvel Spotlight #s 12-24 and, eventually, his own book Son of Satan which lasted 8 issues. After discovering her husband was literally the devil in disguise, Daimon’s mother was driven mad and, in adult life, Hellstrom fought back against his evil lineage as the colourfully-clad Son of Satan. Exorcism, demons and the forces of Hell were the focus of a book that bore a title that must have raised a few eyebrows into the stratosphere thirty years ago. Post-cancellation Daimon eventually fell in with The Defenders.

Daimon’s sister was another matter altogether though. While the Son of Satan struggled to retain his humanity, his sister fully embraced her demonic heritage. When your name is Satana, perhaps it’s inevitable though that Sunday School outings, fluffy bunny-wunnies and picnics with your dollies may not play a large part in your childhood. Raised in Hell by her father, this soul-eating succubus first appeared in Vampire Tales #2 and made further solo appearances in books like Haunt of Horror (#s 2, 4 and 5), Marvel Preview #7 and Marvel Premiere #27. Supposedly she died for good in Marvel Team-Up #81 but has since been resurrected at least twice!

We should all know the background of Johnny Blaze after the publicity of the movie this year but just in case… Motorcycle stuntman Blaze sold his soul to the devil in order that his stepfather recovered from cancer. However, in typical demonic style, he w as double-crossed. His stepfather survived the disease only to be immediately killed in a cycle crash. Feeling cheated a defiant Blaze refused to accept the terms of the deal and was punished by being transformed into a supernatural, flaming, skeletal "Ghost Rider" at night. Eventually it would be revealed that he had been bonded to the demon Zarathos, a Spirit of Vengeance.

Ghost Rider was the only one of the 70s horror books to make it well into the 1980s. Perhaps this was because, unlike many of his contemporaries, Johnny Blaze was as at home in the super-hero genre as he was in the supernatural one. Indeed, he was a member of the shortlived team The Champions as well as an irregular guest-star in books like Marvel Two-In-One and Marvel Team-Up. Just to reiterate how confusing the issue of the true devil is in the Marvel U, the "Satan" originally responsible for Johnny’s downfall was later retconned to be Mephisto.

Selected Reading

Someone at Marvel’s marketing division realised that putting what would have been Essential Son of Satan next to Essential Spider-Man on the shelves at Border’s might be an accident waiting to happen. So for the reprinted 70s exploits of Daimon Hellstrom and Satana pick up the more subtly titled Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1 instead. There’s more 1970s Ghost Rider material available than you can shake a flaming skull at! To start with, get up to speed on Johnny B in Essential Ghost Rider Vols. 1 and 2 but don’t forget there’s also the Ghost Rider Team-Ups trade paperback and Champions Classics Vol. 1 and 2 as well.

When Monsters Clash…

As I’ve mentioned throughout these three pieces, while the  Marvel horror characters largely kept to themselves in terms of the greater Marvel continuity, there were a number of team-ups between themselves and even the odd Marvel super-hero. We’ve already covered the Drac-Werewolf-Frankenstein teamings and the many Marvel Two-In-One a nd Marvel Team-Up outings, but a couple of others are worth mentioning. Marvel Premiere #28 saw Ghost Rider, Morbius, Man-Thing and the Werewolf together as The Legion of Monsters in a one-shot issue that I spent years dreaming of owning as a child after seeing in the collection of a schoolfriend!

Dracula memorably almost met Spider-Man in Giant-Size Spider-Man #1 but he had a heavily-allegorical battle with the Silver Surfer (yes really) in Tomb of Dracula #50, took on Solomon Kane in Savage Sword of Conan #26 and Dracula Lives! # 3, nearly encountered the Zombie in Dracula Lives! #2, famously fought Dr. Strange in Dr. Strange #14/Tomb of Dracula #44 and even Brother Voodoo got cover billing on Tomb of Dracula #35!

The Frankenstein Monster was briefly a member of the Legion of the Unliving and came across the Avengers in The Avengers #s 131-132. Man-Thing clashed with that other swamp-dwelling Marvel monster the Lizard in Giant-Size Spider-Man #5. Morbius met the Werewolf in Giant-Size Werewolf # 4 and Blade in Adventure Into Fear #24. Marvel Spotlight #24 has a devilish Son of Satan/Satana clash and Ghost Rider #s 17 and 26 see appearances by Daimon Hellstrom and Dr. Druid respectively. I could go on and on…

Selected Reading

Check out the relevant Essential Tomb of Dracula and Essential Ghost Rider volumes for those Drac/Ghostie team-ups. The unmissable Legion of Monsters have their inaugural, and only, meeting reprinted in the Legion of Monsters hardcover. Essential Marvel Horror will let you in on Daimon and Satana’s sibling rivalry and The Avengers: Celestial Madonna trade paperback will let you see the unlikely sight of Frankenstein’s Monster teaming with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Sadly, there we must leave the darker corners of the Marvel U having only scratched the surface of the coffin cover! There’s so much more I could have mentioned, such as the multitude of books reprinting 1950s short stories likeVault of Evil, Beware…, Dead of Night, Tomb of Darkness, Crypt of Shadows, Weird Wonder Tales, Uncanny Tales from the Grave, etc. These had covers in the 1970s Marvel style that promised far more than the interiors could ever deliver! There were also a number of memorable adaptations of the work of Poe, Shelley, Stoker, Stevenson and more in the pages of Marvel Classic Comics that I’m sorry I didn’t have the space for. However, if your appetite for this material has been at all whetted by these Monster Mash articles then you can’t go far wrong by picking up the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe guides to Horror, Mystic Arcana and the annoyingly-titled Marvel Zombies edition. They’re an excellent starting point to tracking down those back issues. And grab that Legion of Monsters hardcover while you still can!

I sincerely hope these three short looks at some favourite characters have piqued your interest in the Marvel horror line over this last week and persuaded you there’s more to shared universes than constant wars and infinite crises. Who knows, if this year’s Legion of Monsters one-shots proved successful perhaps Marvel might be persuaded to revive these characters on a more regular basis?

Until next year, pleasant dreams fear-fiends…

 

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