Friday, October 21, 2016

The Open Forum: Remembering AM Radio...

Redartz:  The years since the "Bronze Age" have seen quite a few changes in popular culture. Some of the most common features of daily life back then are all but forgotten today. Think rotary telephones, handwritten letters, and black/white televisions. Other elements of today's life were unknown in the 70's, such as smartphones and the internet. You may have noticed that manyof the changes revolved around science and technology. Although it still exists today, AM radio was a victim of technology as well, beginning with the rise of FM broadcasting. By the time digital music became common, AM had been largely relegated to talk radio and sports. And like most, I gravitated away from AM listening as FM offered cleaner music ("no static at all", as Steely Dan put it). That said,  AM radio offered quite a lot of listening pleasure during the 70's, and today we will recall a bit of that.

My first exposure to AM was the local Anderson, Indiana radio station: WHUT. During the early 70's the station played top 40 hits, and was the station of choice on our school bus. Riding home after classes we would strain to hear Three Dog Night, Elton John and Grand Funk over the usual cacophony of yelling schoolkids. During the summer months, at the public swimming pool, I remember Paul McCartney's "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" would echo across the water, courtesy of the dj at WHUT. 

It wasn't long before my burgeoning love for pop music found greater fulfillment , via Casey Kasem and American Top 40. The same middle school friend who introduced me to comics also opened my ears to "AT40".
Every weekend through the rest of the decade and well into the 80's, I'd tune in to hear Casey count 'em down. Starting on Muncie, IN station WLBC, and later on several Indianapolis stations, the Billboard chart came alive every week, along with Casey's trivia and long-distance dedications. And the music was the big draw, even though there was somewhat greater static from the more distant Muncie broadcaster. Yet that fuzziness was part of the charm, and didn't seem troublesome at all.

By 1975 I'd gotten heavily addicted to comics, just in time to catch another treat on AM radio: the Fantastic Four Radio Show. Again courtesy of our local Anderson station, each week Stan Lee himself brought the FF to my ears through those little speakers on my clock radio. It only ran for 13 episodes, but somehow it seemed longer. The show featured a young Bill Murray as the Human Torch, and adapted some of the classic Lee/Kirby epics. I never missed it. 

At about the same time period that I was tuning in to the FF, another radio show grabbed my attention and kept me glued each evening: the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. 

This show  premiered in 1974 and ran until 1982, totaling 1399 episodes. Being a tv kid, I had no prior experience with radio drama. This was a whole new reason to stay up late after bedtime, on school nights when I should have been studying or asleep. It was perfect: lying alone in the dark, late ( I think the show ran locally about 11:00 pm), listening to the creeeaaaky door intro and creepy music, followed by narrator E.G. Marshall's introduction. Quite a variety of themes were presented- mysteries, horror, science fiction, and some classics. Somehow everything seemed more convincing in those darkened late-nights, even the commercials. And when the news came on after, it sounded like the Chimes of Doom...

And speaking of the commercials, that was another unique part of AM radio. The preponderance of local ads and low radio budgets made for some amusing (and sometimes pretty cheesy) commercials. I can still clearly recall an ad from the mid-70's that ran very frequently on Anderson and Muncie stations. It was for a local drive-in theater that showed, shall we say, more adult-oriented fare. But the commercial opened with the Surfari's "Wipeout" intro, and surf guitar line. This was followed by an invitation to visit the "Blackford County Drive-In; 9 miles north of Muncie on highway 3. Our inner car heaters make winter feel like summer". I'll be hearing that commercial in my head until my dying day, and maybe after. 

One more little feature I'll mention about AM radio: a personal eccentricity, perhaps. During the evenings, when many local stations went off the air, the AM band became a place to pick up vague bits of broadcast from exotic locations all over, such as Des Moines, New York and Windsor, Ontario. WABC, CKLW, WLS and countless others. Again, the action of listening in the dark to these ghostly voices made them all the more evocative. Hearing those speakers, commercials, tunes, local newscasts- all fading in and out among the distant static was almost haunting, and very fun. I always heard you could pick up Mexican radio ( as per Wall of Voodoo), but never could myself...
Incidentally, you had to have an old analog tuning dial to do this best. Digital push-button tuning skips over too much, and you miss the fun of sweeping back and forth up and down the dial. Plus, you get the cool blue-green light illuminating the dial!

Hmmm, maybe I'll go upstairs late this evening and drag out that old transistor. Bet I can pick up WLW...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Who's the Best... Horror Movie Remake?

Karen: Tis the season -for things creepy and scary. I was turning the dial on Sunday (well, clicking the remote, but you get my meaning) and I saw remakes of Frankenstein, and The Thing (actually that strange prequel to John Carpenter's remake...that's confusing), so I thought it might be time to toss out the question - Who's the Best remake? Or are you of the opinion that remakes stink?  And of course, are they really remakes, or just different versions from the same subject matter?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Guest Review - "The Judas Contract", part two

Doug: We hope you enjoyed Mike Wilson's introduction to his reviews of the books that made up "The Judas Contract" storyline. He's back today with the body of that tale, one of the best of the latter Bronze Age.

"The Judas Contract" by M.S. Wilson

Tales of the Teen Titans #42 (May 1984)
"The Eyes of Tara Markov"
Marv Wolfman-George Perez/Dick Giordano

This is part 1 of the Judas Contract, where things really start getting wild. I love the title of this issue, which I'm assuming was inspired by "The Eyes of Laura Mars", though I haven't seen that movie. This one starts with Tara still taking photos with her contact lens camera. Only this time, she's taking photos of the Titans in their civilian identities, starting at Donna Troy's photo studio, where Donna is taking some bikini shots of Starfire. They all go to Donna's apartment where we see Terry Long, Donna's fiance and the world's most hated supporting character. They're planning the wedding, and feeling a bit overwhelmed, so Gar says they can hold the wedding at his (well, Steve Dayton's) mansion. Donna asks Dick to give her away, and asks Starfire and Tara to be bridesmaids (apparently Raven has already declined). Tara seems touched by Donna including her; will this change her mind about spying on the Titans? Don't count on it.

They drop by Dick's apartment next, and Tara is still taking pictures. As they leave, Tara speaks for readers everywhere and asks Gar why he acts like such an idiot all the time. Gar says he feels inadequate around the other Titans, since all of them would be successful without their powers, but he's got nothing else going for him. Tara tries to give him some advice, but he doesn't want to listen. They drop by a park and watch Vic (Cyborg) Stone attempting to ice skate ... and failing miserably. Of course, Gar makes fun of him, with a nod to Bambi. They go by Vic's place, which is in a run-down neighbourhood. Vic finds a letter saying his grandparents are coming home and freaks out, though he won't explain why. Later, Gar and Tara get all smocchy-smoochy down at the docks, even as we're reminded that Tara's still spying. At Titan Tower, Tara tries to get Raven to open up, but Raven's empathic abilities mean she can detect some bad vibes coming from Tara. She's not sure if it's Tara herself, or just some residue of Trigon's evil, but she's pretty snotty to Tara. That makes Tara mad and she vows that she'll take care of Raven herself when the time comes.

The next day, the Titans are testing themselves at their HQ. Cyborg lifts a magnetized five ton weight (Pfffft, Spider-Man can lift twice that!) to prove that he can still push himself beyond his limits, like he did when he was fully human. Wonder Girl and Starfire do their best Robin Hood vs. Little John impersonation, fighting each other with quarterstaves. But instead of fighting on a log over a river, they seem to be on an air matress in the swimming pool; either way, the loser gets wet. Starfire wins, extending her unbeaten streak, but they hug it out afterwards. Next up are Changeling and Terra, who mix it up outside. Of course, Changeling is an obnoxious ass and Terra lets her psycho side show when she freaks out and tries to kill him. She apologizes profusely and says it's a delayed reaction from when she was held by the terrorists. Strangely, they all seem to believe her (with the possible exception of Raven, but she isn't really the type to share her feelings anyway). Anyway, this one doesn't end with a hug.

Back at Casa Terminator, Slade Wilson tells Tara she almost blew it by letting her true emotions show. She isn't worried, but Slade says the Titans shouldn't be underestimated. They prepare to attack the Titans, using the knowledge of their civilian identities gleaned by Tara. It seems Slade is completing the contract his son Grant (aka Ravager from issue #2) had with HIVE to kill the Titans. Since Grant died, Slade figured it was his obligation to finish what his son started. They leave to carry out the assignment and we see that Slade is a spyee as well as a spyer; a woman (plus someone with blond hair and a really funky perm) is watching Slade and Terra ... and she seems to know Slade from way back. Who is she? We'll have to wait until next issue to see.

Tales of the Teen Titans #43 (June 1984)
Marv Wolfman-George Perez/Dick Giordano/Mike DeCarlo

This one gets crazy right away. We see Dick Grayson working at his desk (on a typewriter... man, I feel old) and Terminator comes busting in the window. I'm assuming this is Dick's apartment, where Gar and Tara saw him last issue, but why does his desk have a name plate on it? Do people use name plates in their own homes? Maybe he's at some kind of office? I have no idea. Anyway, Dick and Terminator fight, and it's obvious Terminator knows his secret identity. He mentions the HIVE contract and says he doesn't want to kill him, since the terms are "dead or alive". Dick starts analyzing the situation (that's what a decade hanging out with Batman will get you) and he gets Terminator to knock him out the window so he can go look for the others. Termy goes after him, but Dick gets away. We see the woman from the end of last issue and the blond dude, whose name is Joseph; he not only has that wild perm, but some pretty crazy mutton-chops too. They're still following Terminator, who's kinda shook up about losing Dick Grayson, and is worried about Terra double-crossing him. He actually sounds pretty paranoid.

When his emergency signal goes unanswered, Dick starts checking on the other Titans. He finds Kory and Donna's place blown up and we get a flashback of Kory opening a "present" supposedly sent by Dick himself. It explodes and knocks her out. Dick checks Donna's studio and realizes she was taken too. We get another flashback of her mixing photo chemicals and the mixture giving off a gas that knocks her out. Dick deduces that Terminator must've switched chemicals so Donna would accidentally create ether. It's obvious Terminator had knowledge of their civilian identities, so Dick takes Donna's car and goes to look for the others. He doesn't seem to notice the woman and Joseph (who we learn is her son) following. He checks Cyborg's place and sees he was taken too, this time with the old "electrically-charged metal bands in the kitchen chair" trick. I'm not sure how Terminator got the bands, the mechanism, and the power source inside that chair... it looks pretty spindly to me. Anyway, Dick heads for Titan Tower next, hoping to find Terra or Raven.

But neither of them are there, though there are signs of a fight, including some of Terra's "earthworks". Dick is worried that Terminator has taken Terra and Raven, but the woman who was following him made it to the Tower ahead of him and tells him Terra was working with Terminator all along and she's the one who pounded Raven. Dick doesn't want to believe Terra betrayed them, so he calls Gar Logan's place. The maid (who's dressed like someone from a 1920s burlesque show) goes to find him. Gar hasn't been jumped... yet. In fact, he's autographing photos of himself and sticking them in envelopes; it seems someone sent him a bunch of photos (and return envelopes) out of the blue begging him to sign and return them... nothing suspicious about that, nosirree. Naturally, the envelope glue is poisoned (maybe that's where Seinfeld got the idea?) and Gar keels over, as Terminator calls him a "vainglorious dolt"; hey, when he's right, he's right.

When Gar can't be found, Dick realizes everyone but him has been taken and it must've been an inside job. He starts to believe the woman (whose name is Adeline), but wonders how she knows so much about Terminator. She then reveals the shocking truth: "He was... my boyfriend!" No wait, that was "Young Frankenstein"; what Adeline actually says is that Slade Wilson used to be her husband. We then see Terminator delivering the Titans to a HIVE base in the Rocky Mountains. And on that dramatic note, the issue ends. I like how Dick was acting kinda like Batman in this issue, putting clues together and going about everything methodically instead of rushing off half-cocked. I guess there's a reason he's the leader.

Tales of the Teen Titans #44 (July 1984)
"There Shall Come a Titan"
Marv Wolfman-George Perez/Dick Giordano/Mike DeCarlo

We begin this issue where we left off, with Dick trying to come to grips with the fact his entire team has been captured, and trying to figure out whether to trust Adeline or not. He gets belligerent with Joseph, who hasn't said a word, then learns he's mute. The caption says Dick feels "awe" when he looks at Joseph; I'm not sure why. I get the feeling Jericho (as Joseph will soon be called) is one of Wolfman's favourite characters... or maybe Perez's favourite, since the intro to the trade paperback says Perez came up with the idea to make him mute. Personally, I never saw Jericho's appeal... I always found him annoying rather than awe-inspiring, but he'll be around for a looooong time, so better get used to him.

Adeline starts telling Dick (and us) Terminator's life story. Slade Wilson lied about his age and fought in the Korean War (I think Marv was trying to do things in somewhat "real time" at this point) and he and Adeline met in the early 60s. She was some kind of highly-trained combat expert, and Slade volunteered for an elite military force. This was just before the Vietnam War really got going. I'm not sure if these are meant to be early Green Berets, or something even more "elite". Adeline trained them and Slade impressed her with his skill. Apparently, she impressed him by showing him up on the combat range. Instead of getting pissy about it, he asked her to teach him everything she could. So, they fought together, fell in love, got married, and he was sent to Vietnam. She was pregnant (with Grant, aka Ravager), so she stayed behind.

Dick doesn't believe her story, because Terminator is almost superhuman. Adeline explains that he volunteered for some experiment (to resist truth serum) and it heightened all his abilities, but it screwed him up a bit too, making him manic at times, then almost comatose at other times. He was discharged from the Army and became depressed, although not too depressed to knock up his wife again. She gave birth to Joseph and they moved to Africa where Slade became a Great White Hunter. Later he became something of a bon vivant, hosting lavish parties and rubbing elbows with the fancy people. He taught his kids to fight; Grant took to weapons readily, but Joseph was more sensitive, learning to play piano and sing beautifully. (See where this is going?)

But their cozy world was shattered one night when some guys showed up to kidnap Joseph. Adeline wasted a couple, but they gassed her and took the kid. That's when she found out her husband was actually Deathstroke the Terminator. They go to get Joseph back from a terrorist called the Jackal; I'm not sure if he's supposed to represent a real person or not. He doesn't look much like the real-world Carlos the Jackal and he looks nothing like Edward Fox, so maybe he's not meant to parallel anyone from real life. Jackal wants the name of whoever hired Terminator to kill a friend of his, but Terminator refuses to tell him, saying he gave his word and his word is his bond. Terminator takes out Jackal and all his men, but one of them started to cut Joseph's throat. He survives, but his vocal cords were severed, rendering him mute. Apparently, Slade never came to the hospital to see Joseph, which pissed Adeline off so much she tried to kill him. His superhuman reflexes saved him, but he lost his right eye. Adeline then filed for divorce. (If you can't kill 'em, divorce 'em)

She tells Dick she's been tracking Terminator, but couldn't get too close while Terra was around, otherwise she might've gotten buried under a ton of rock. She says she knows where the Titans are being held, and Dick gives her hell for wasting time with the A&E Biography of Slade Wilson. But she reminds him he's only one man, and he isn't even Robin anymore, so what can he do? Dick goes upstairs and puts on a new costume while reflecting on his life. He comes back down and says his new name is Nightwing. Adeline announces that her son is a mutant (man, they're everywhere!), has powers (and got a costume from somewhere, apparently), and is now called Jericho. She says Joseph's powers were kept secret from Slade. Dick is hesitant to work with him, but Adeline tells Joseph to demonstrate his powers. He does some kind of "eye contact" thing and disappears into Nightwing, taking over his body, although Dick is still aware of what's going on and can still talk. Jericho then demonstrates the control he has over Dick by doing the classic "stop hitting yourself" move. He pops back out of Nightwing and Adeline points out that Jericho could've just taken Dick over and forced him to do what they wanted. 

So Dick decides to trust them and he and Jericho jet off to find the Titans. I'm not sure why Adeline stays behind, if she's such a hotshot combat expert. As they're flying away, Nightwing says the team already has aliens, witches, shape-changers, and cyborgs, so why not a mutant? He adds, " 'sides, I hear you guys aren't half bad." which I'm sure is meant as an X-Men reference, since NTT was being endlessly compared to the X-Men. Some people thought they were a rip-off of the Marvel mutants, but to me, the styles are quite different. I'd say X-Men has much more in common with the Legion than with the NTT. Anyway, next issue is a biggie (figuratively and literally).

Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3 (1984)
Marv Wolfman-George Perez/Dick Giordano/Mike DeCarlo

This one opens in the HIVE complex where we see the Titans held powerless in the enervator, a gigantic Kirbyesque machine that drains (or dampens) their powers. Terminator gloats (and kinda makes a skeevy pass at Starfire) while the HIVE minions gather. Terminator tells them about finishing Ravager's contract and introduces his helper, Terra. They can't believe she betrayed them, especially Changeling, who assumes she's been brainwashed and urges her to fight it. Outside, Nightwing and Jericho find the base and start sneaking in.

Terminator tells the HIVE leader that he's fulfilled his son's contract, but the HIVE dude reminds him they don't have Kid Flash or Robin. Termy says Kid Flash quit and says his associate, Wintergreen, is tracking down Robin as they speak. But when he contacts Wintergreen, he says he hasn't found Robin yet, but he's getting close. We see Adeline holding a gun on Wintergreen--I guess that's why she stayed behind. We then get some more backstory, about how Wintergreen saved Slade Wilson's life in Korea and Slade returned the favour in Vietnam. Wintergren says he's been worried all along about Slade taking the HIVE contract, and worried about Terra's instability.

At the HIVE base, Nightwing and Jericho conk out a couple of guards and disguise themselves; well, Nightwing disguises himself, but Jericho takes over the guard's unconscious body. We learn that if the person he takes over is unconscious, Jericho can animate their body and even speak, although only in the other person's voice. They infiltrate the main chamber where the Titans are being held, but the guy Jericho took over starts regaining consciousness, which means he'll be able to use his own voice and warn the other HIVE members. So Nightwing and Jericho come out punching. Jericho hops from person to person, adding to the confusion. Nightwing tosses some gas grenades and they beat the hell out of some more HIVE goons. But they run into Terra and she buries them ... literally.

In his quarters, Terminator seems to be having some sort of mid-life crisis. He's called to the main chamber and learns Terra captured Nightwing (or Robin as they all keep calling him). Terra says he can thank her later "if you got the stamina"; yeah, they were definitely getting it on. Jericho is brought in and strapped to the enervator with the Titans. Terminator recognizes him right away and demands he be released, but HIVE says that since he was helping the Titans, he'll die with them. Terra recognizes Jericho from the photos Terminator was looking at and announces that Jericho is his son. HIVE realizes how valuable Jericho is and tries to make a deal with Terminator. As he goes to look at his son, they make eye contact and Jericho takes him over.

Terminator is aware of what's happening, but can't stop himself from decking Terra and freeing the Titans, who quickly take advantage and attack HIVE. Not knowing that Terminator is being controlled, Terra thinks he turned on her and really loses it. She goes nuts and tries to kill him. Even after everything, some of the Titans (notably Starfire and Changeling) still can't accept Terra as an enemy. The Titans cut a swath through the HIVE goons and start destroying the complex. Terra is still trying to kill Terminator and drops him into a chasm. Nightwing realizes how crazy she is and bops her with a stun disc. Before he can reach her, Terminator sucker punches him and tries to reason with Terra. But she's too far gone and is ready to kill him.

Changeling takes that as a sign that she's still on their side, but she quickly gives him the facts: she never cared about the Titans, has always been filled with hate, and all her friendliness (including the smooching with Gar) was fake. She admits the Statue of Liberty terrorists were working for Terminator and the whole attack was just a way of getting them to trust her. She covers Changeling and Nightwing in mud, almost smothering them. Raven tries to use her empathic abilities to reason with her, while Cyborg pins Terminator and tries to get him to call Terra off, but Termy says she's too crazy ... then he cuts Vic's hands off. He threatens to cut Vic's head off next, but Jericho zaps him before he can. Terra freaks out and decks Raven, then goes nuts and pulls lava from underground to destroy the complex. Changeling flies into her eye and she goes completely off the deep end, bringing half the complex down on top of herself, though none of the Titans are hurt.

Gar and Wonder Girl search through the rubble, and Gar is still convinced (or trying to convince himself) that Terminator somehow turned Terra evil. Jericho and Terminator (who's tied up) are both upset at the circumstances of their "reunion" and both end up crying. Speaking of which, Gar finds Terra's body and is devastated. Later we see Terra's funeral, with all the Titans and the Outsiders, including Batman. Terra's brother, Geo-Force, gives a speech about nobility and sacrifice and all that. Watching from nearby, Adeline and Joseph realize the Titans didn't tell Terra's brother (or anyone else) that she was a raving, hate-filled lunatic. Adeline says the Titans are very noble and Joseph will fit in well with them, but his mind is elsewhere.

And that's the Judas Contract. In the intro to the trade paperback, Wolfman and Perez admit that they created Terra with this story in mind; they always knew she was a spy working for Terminator, and they always knew she was going to die. Talk about playing the long game. So I guess all the little moments where it looked like Terra might be having second thoughts were just red herrings. In fact, during the final fight, just before her death, Wolfman's captions say that Terra was too full of hate, too far off the deep end to ever be rehabilitated. Maybe that was his way of silencing all the fans who were going to say "Did she have to die? Wasn't there some way she could've been saved?", questions the Titans will be asking themselves too. Apparently she couldn't be saved. But I think that makes the story better, because it makes the wound deeper, and it affects the way the Titans look at the world. It could make them less open, more suspicious, but overall i don't think it does.

The art is spectacular, of course, and Wolfman's writing is great too. He shows subtlety, humour, and a real grasp of the characters. I know a lot of people find Changeling annoying (and he is!), but I can't help feeling bad for him here. Terra's betrayal hurt him more than anyone, and he keeps blaming Terminator for it. I think this arc is where Gar grows up a bit, and even though he doesn't lose his sense of humour (such as it is), Wofman writes him as more mature from here on out. If I remember right, when the Titans break up, it's Gar and Victor that rally to get them back together. And there's the follow-up to this story, where Gar gets the chance to exact revenge on Terminator for Terra's death, but chooses not to. It's also great to see Dick finally getting out of Batman's long shadow and becoming his own man. At this point, Jason Todd is already acting as Robin, so there's no need for two of them. But we also see Batman's continuing influence when Dick uses his deductive ability to figure out what's going on. That becomes something of a trademark (like when he investigates Donna's past).
So, I'd say the Judas Contract deserves its "classic storyline" appellation. NTT was definitely on a roll back then!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Clap for the... Man-Wolf - Creatures on the Loose 30

Creatures on the Loose #30 (July 1974)
"Full Moon, Dark Fear!"
Doug Moench-George Tuska/Vince Colletta

Doug: We're about to let October sneak away without much Monster Mayhem. Pretty uncharacteristic on the BAB, huh? I'll do my part today with a review of the first solo outing of John Jameson, the Man-Wolf. You may recall that the character debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #124 (September 1973), and the story finished an issue later. He next menaced our favorite Web-Spinner in Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1 (June 1974), and then won this ongoing series the very next month. Again, it's strange to see a so-called "super villain" as a headliner, but with all of Marvel's other monster-type mags at the time, this seemed fitting. Fitting, particularly if Spider-Man might cameo for marketing purposes. He did, of course, but the series was more notable for the George Perez art that came our way after a few issues of George Tuska.

Short plot summary, you said? Sure! Here -- have a 100-Word Review:

Our tale opens with a raging Man-Wolf crashing through an upper floor window. Immediately we flash back to a time when John Jameson and his father, Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson discussed John’s situation concerning the moonstone that had become grafted to his neck. We’re told that John becomes a werewolf when the moon is full, and sure enough… Back in the present, the NYPD hires former CIA agent Simon Stroud to solve the “werewolf problem”. With clues garnered by the police, Stroud confronts JJJ, and begins to track the younger Jameson. Their encounter ends atop the Statue of Liberty!

The Good: I chose today's review strictly on its monster merits. Truthfully, I had no idea about the level of satisfaction I'd have upon completion. It was not a waste of my time. If I can open this secton with a general comment, it's that the story was all set-up for the most part. Spider-Man actually did not appear, and thus the purpose of the events in between these covers was the creation of a storyline and new supporting cast of characters. In that regard, it's a simple story with really no surprises. But as I said, that was OK.

The character of Simon Stroud seemed a bit bold for being former CIA. Let's just say that if he was a spy of any caliber, he forgot what he learned. He's brash, a real "warhawk" in terms of hunting werewolves, and he's certainly not afraid to be dangerous in public. But it's this over-the-top sort of guy who fits right into the Bronze Age, when we all agree comics might have been a bit more brash, like Stroud. I'm guessing in a "Fugitive" sort of way, Stroud made for a good antagonist. We're also reminded that John Jameson has a lady friend, his fiance' Kristine, but we only see her in a portrait smashed by the Man-Wolf.

I'm going to slot the art in this category, not because it was great, but because I got what I expected. It seemed in the mid-70s more often than not George Tuska was paired with Vinnie Colletta. Vinnie's feathery touch really didn't do Tuska any favors, as the penciler by this time perhaps needed a stronger line. I thought the art on humans and objects was pretty good, but the Man-Wolf seemed to lack something, maybe around the ears. Not bad, just not quite as the team of Gil Kane and John Romita first imagined the character.

In the spirit of Dick Sprang and those huge Silver Age Batman backdrops, the Statue of Liberty was a nice scene for the climactic battle.

The Bad: So Stroud was a good character for this story, said I, and I'll stand by that. But he's a loud guy, and by that I mean what I also alluded to above -- there doesn't appear to be any sizeable amount of stealth in this fellow. I just felt that scribe Doug Moench might have given him a different background than ex-CIA.

I wasn't sure what to make of JJJ. He was written sympathetically, and that's not the first time (or last) it would happen. But for there to be only one panel of his bravado, his megalomania... it almost seemed like I got short-changed.

The Man-Wolf presents a problem akin to Man-Thing -- a protagonist who does not speak. And similar as well to the muck monster, there's nary a thought balloon either. This is the only solo Man-Wolf adventure I've ever read, so if this changes later I'd appreciate being informed. I guess it can work. But honestly, when the Man-Wolf was on-camera here, he was just running amuck. Nothing else. That could get boring in a hurry.

The Ugly: You know I'm usually at a loss to put anything in this section. It's not often I strongly dislike any elements of the comics I read. But in the era at hand, I've come to really notice some of the cartoony faces Tuska draws. In a humor mag I'd probably laud them as caricatures. But in a horror story it's an odd mix -- terror from the fangs of the Man-Wolf, yet goofy-looking mugs on other characters.

I'd welcome any thoughts from our readers who were able to go beyond this issue, deeper into the Creatures on the Loose Man-Wolf series. Karen reviewed a couple of these stories several years ago. I'd be especially interested in thoughts on the art of a very young George Perez, and I thank you in advance.

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