The Frankenstein Monster #8

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Halloween is here! Can’t say I’m much of the celebrating type considering my childhood was spent decked out in flammable plastic…and handing out candy to other kids. All dressed up with nowhere to go. Thanks Mom, for making an 8 year old man the door. Don’t feel bad. I’ve more than made up for it over the years by consuming my body weight in miniature Snickers.

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 “The sweet smell of nostalgia and noxious plastic fumes.”

We’re not here to discuss my tragic backstory. That’s what hard liquor is for. No dear friends, time to talk comics. With the spirit of this hair raising holiday in mind, I’ve decided to revisit some Bronze Age Marvel Monsters. Everyone enjoys a good fright right? Publishers recognized the appeal of horror and flooded the market with a myriad of titles dedicated to the macabre. The majority of these issues had an anthology layout while solo books were reserved for the genres movie mainstays. Dracula being the most notable and popular with the fans.

This makes The Monster Frankenstein #8 (cover dated January 1974) pretty interesting to me. First, he’s the big brute of scary set but with an over saturated market, the chatter in the crypt was Frankenstein’s book neared it’s demise. Frank’s adventures needed a little life, so Marvel turned to Dracula for a three issue guest appearance. Did it do the trick or was this story more rotten than a Jack o’ Lantern in late November? Let’s take the lid off of this nefarious narrative by Gary Friedrich and the brilliant John Buscema.

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As the cover indicates, we start with Frankenstein opening a coffin to reveal Dracula rip roaring and ready to go. For an immortal creature he doesn’t bother to waste any time. This leaves Franky boy a tad shocked. One would think Drac might like to use the bathroom after waking up, or perhaps enjoy a good stretch before going into stalk mode. We got ourselves one nimble Nosferatu here!

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“You and me both Pal…”

I gotta admit, it’s pretty cool this story hits you with action outta the gate but how did this meeting come to be? Sheer chance? Of course not. Enter Marguerita the Hag. This little old lady lured Frank into her gypsy camp last issue. Filling his belly with food and his heart with high hopes of finding a home, she requests he follows her to a cave. Turns out only he possesses the strength needed to open the coffin that lies within. Here’s the rub, Marguerita is in fact a vampire herself eager to see her dark lord again. Be careful what you wish for baby!

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“Knuckle sandwiches are included with the early bird special.”

While all this geriatric grappling is going down, the reader is introduced to Marguerita’s beautiful granddaughter, Carmen. Bearing witness to the melee, the girl is horrified to discover her beloved Bubbe is a baddie. Marguerita grabs Carmen violently, turning Frank’s eye away from Dracula. He saves the girl from a vampire bite and drives a stake through her matriarch’s ticker.

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“You’re the reason for my life…You’re the inspiration.”

Dracula sees this as prime time to hit the bricks. I mean, c’mon all that stalking makes a guy thirsty.  So off to the nearest town for blood he goes. Meanwhile, Frankenstein and Carmen emerge from the cave to discover the entire gypsy camp, once welcoming to Franky, have been slaughtered. The nearby Townsfolk felt the need to punish them for turning the woods into the Universal Studios Monsters Tour. Now they gone and done it. Not only is Drac on his way to suck ’em dry but Frankenstein is out to avenge his fallen friends.

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“Nowadays you can just illegally download some Gypsy Jams. Back then, not so much.”

Let’s tackle my biggest gripe about this issue. Hell, about Vampire tales in general. Anytime I see the whole change into a bat but keep my face thing, I’m annoyed. Why? Just go full on bat. To add garlic to my gripe, Dracula even keeps his collar here! You may think you’re the most stylish flying rat in Transylvania there buddy but next time just rock a leisure suit. The ladies will love it! Well, some maybe. Ok…keep the collar.

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“Do these wings make my ass look fat?”

Where were we? Ah yes, a fury infused Frankenstein! The denizens of Gypsy Genocideville are aware he is en route. Rather than play sitting duck, the Burgomeister  insists they set out to kill the monstrosity before it arrives. Gotta love the role of Burgomeister. Has there been any other profession portrayed as a bigger dink in realm of fiction? The only other job that may hold a torch is the Hospital Orderly. I challenge you fine reader, to prove me otherwise.

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“Burgomeisters…cementing a bad rep for over 200 years.”

As the Villagers wonder where to start the hunt, Frank’s already arrived at the town square. He smashes a wagon and goes on a diatribe about hatred. For a supposed lunkhead, he’s fairly spot on about men being the true monsters of the world. Word of advice to Frankenstein though: the Ghandi routine gets lost in translation when you murder everyone within arms reach! Hey, It’s the thought that counts…right big guy?

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“Quit running! I have to see if your nether regions can accommodate a wagon wheel!”

Similar to Trick or Treaters that descend upon the house giving away full size candy bars, the locals manage to swarm on Frank. Someone finally realizes pitch forks are useless and grabs a rifle. Guns are a pretty lousy solution to any problem but I will say this, I’d be willing to get the resulting sound effect tattooed on one of my buttocks.

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“Look on the bright side, at least scarring isn’t an issue!”

Subdued by the bullet, Frank is tied to a post and given the “burn the witch” treatment. This ends with a splash page and is probably my single favorite moment of the book. The beast shows bravado only to seemingly crap his pants and with the odd word balloon placement, the chimney is telling him to die.

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“Just friggin’ great, you bumpkins had to go and burn the last good street pole!”

Was this the spooky spectacular that reinvigorated my spirit for the season? Not quite. The problem here is the script. It cashes in on every cliche that’s been used in genre from the get go. Pacing was good but it’s terribly predictable. The art is the strength here as John Buscema makes you feel like you’re watching a classic Monster movie.

Worth a read for fans of the subject matter but for the rest of us, It’s a pass. Seal it in the Tomb of Tired Tropes and hope no one ever sets it free.

 

David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.

 

 

 

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ghost Rider #16

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I fucking love Jaws. Enough so that I open up this column using a cuss when describing one of my favorite movie franchises. So, when I stumbled upon this issue of Ghost Rider #16 and saw the tease on the cover, I had to check it out. As I write this we are smack dab in the middle of the summer and what goes better with beaches and barbeques than our fear of man eating sharks.  Thanks to novelist Peter Benchley and director Steven Spielberg, Jaws has become a tradition that terrifies and thrills fans all over the world. We’re all residents of Amity Island every July and Captain Quint is one of the most bad ass characters ever captured on celluloid.

Even if you put my affection for the flicks aside and just take this cover at face value,  how the hell does someone with a flaming skull and a motorcycle fight underwater? That in itself makes it goofy enough to garner my attention. Written by Bill Mantlo with art by George Tuska, let’s see if its safe to swim with this story titled “Blood in the Water” from February 1976.

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lineJohnny Blaze is fed up with Los Angeles. He has decided to hit the road and head for Mexico. Seems like a popular destination for the superhero set. Upon reaching the border, we discover our neighbors to the south are really only concerned with one thing. Dirty Hippies. That’s right, take your patchouli smelling ass and Grateful Dead records somewhere else pal. What do the customs agents like? Money. Johnny flashes some greenbacks and off to Baja we go.

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“They may hate greasy gringo’s but are suckers for Cherry Garcia

Cruising down the coast, he pines for a simple life and spots a cozy little pad on the shoreline. Looks like quite the tranquil little piece of real estate. Except for a dude hellbent on shooting dolphins from his back porch. While this nutbag tries popping a cap in Flipper’s ass, his daughter intervenes grabbing at his weapon. The stray bullet nails one of the tires on Johnny’s skull cycle, sending him tumbling to the sand. I know every time I fall, my first instinct is to yell “Yahoo” rather than “Wipeout” but different strokes for different folks I suppose.

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“Watch the property value plummet before your eyes.”

Johnny is pissed off over taking a digger on the beach and confronts Mr. Jerkpants with the jazzy jaw. Despite being the type of guy who thinks it’s cool to pound on his offspring, he feels guilty about wrecking Johnny’s ride. He offers his shed  for repairs but Blaze is all about the booty and would rather chill in a dune with the man’s daughter.

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“Say baby, does your dad shoot at all the hunks possessed by demons or just me?”

Rather than get frisky, she feels the need to give her dad’s origin. You see, Frank Phillips is the Punisher of the Pacific. Frank was hired by the C.I.A. to strap bombs on dolphins and experiment with using them as living torpedoes. Crazy as it sounds, militarizing mammals isn’t just the stuff of comic book fiction.  Obsessed with his work, one day he takes his family out to sea with him. His kid falls in the water and a tragic backstory is born.

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“Former Miami Dolphins season ticket holder could stand the losing NO MORE…”

No sooner than we get up to speed on why Frank is stark raving mad, he’s at it again.  This guy is on a mission to eliminate all of dolphin-kind. I’m fond of the next panel, not because I dig murdering harmless animals but rather how dramatic the poor little buggers are as they take hot lead. Seriously, eat your heart out DiCaprio. These dudes deserved an Oscar way before your token victory for The Revenant.

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“We would like to thank the Academy and  Mr.Limpett for paving the way.”

You read that narration box correctly, Frank uses a tape recording to lure them in. Had he played his cards right, there are much more beneficial ways to control ocean life with that technology. Just sayin’…

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“Hey Namorita, I have a mix tape for you!”

Johnny isn’t pleased all this commotion just put the kibosh on his beach blanket bingo with blondie. So what to do? Take the Skull Cycle, despite a flat tire and ride that sucker right at Frank’s boat. Here’s where his plan gets really special. Hurl your leather clad frame on deck cannon ball style. Pretty slick. I believe he may have created the greatest take down of a gunman in Marvel history.

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“As far as dramatic entrances go, ass first is pretty impressive.”

They duke it out as the boat drifts to sea but while the fists fly a rouge wave capsizes the vessel. A flaming skull did little to freak out Frank but he’s amazed that those  finned foes that once felt his wrath are actually pretty friendly. No time for a tickle fest though as we are about to have our main event. That’s right, cue the dah dum’s and close the beaches. Ghosty has noticed a great white forgot his brown bagged lunch at home and needs a snack to hold him over. gr15.1

 “It must suck having no eyelids when swimming in the ocean. SALTY!”

Ghost Rider and Captain Quint actually have some things in common. Sure, they’re both some seriously macho dudes but when it comes to decision making, not so bright. For those who remember the first Jaws film, Quint let his emotions take control and ( 42 year old Spoiler alert ) ends up as shredded wheat. Ghosty’s first inclination is to shoot flames at the shark… underwater. While I commended the insane barrel roll to get on the ship, boiling the shark wouldn’t be my first choice. Serious loss of kudos points there.

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“The look of a man determined to kill a shark or massive cocaine habit? You decide.”

His lone option exhausted, not only has my question been answered on Ghost Rider’s usefulness in water (NONE!) but now I’m not sure about the dolphins anymore. This whole issue I’ve been led to believe they are the victims. Sympathetic to the fact they had been led to slaughter while listening to smooth jams. To that, I now say nay. They are vicious little bastards! Swimming to Ghosty’s aid by ramming themselves into the belly of the beast. I realize they are saving Ghost Riders chaps but man, maybe Frank has been right all along. There is some evil up in those blowholes.

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“Aww, he just wanted a S’more. Do you know how hard those are to come by down there?”

That’s pretty much it. The dolphins do all the damage and save the day. A little lackluster in the man v.s. shark department but we got something even better. Frank has realized the error of his ways. The whole time the true enemy came from within. We close on a tender moment, where he apologizes to an entire species. Alright, tender was a poor choice…cheesy, that’s better. We close on a cheesy moment where a crazy old man shouts at a wave. I’m not sure if the dolphins are supposed to be there in synchronized jump or if it’s just symbolic but let’s talk about if you should check this out.

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“Believe it or not, this is the least absurd moment in the whole book.”

You may think I’m high on seaweed but I really enjoyed this tale. The pace was excellent and the art was seriously outstanding stuff. Ok, granted It didn’t live up to the hype promised on the cover but not being a Ghost Rider fan, I’m already more interested in his exploits from the 70’s.

You may be asking “Dave, didn’t you just claim the ending was a little dopey”? That I did but I also commonly say, remember the era it was released. You won’t get The Watchmen back in 1976, so enjoy things for what they are. In this case done fairly well.

If you see this one out there in the bins, snag it.

David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter. Unsolicited tip #852 for all the kiddo’s out there, skip high priced variants and go buy some bronze age stuff instead. You’ll thank me later…

By the way, I wouldn’t be much of a Jaws fan If I didn’t leave you with this:

 

 

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites  are used solely for informational purposes.